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Safe Havens: The zoneplate work of George Sheils

Skerries Harbour
A frequent visitor and poster on f295.org, I was pleased when George Sheils, known as Seoirse, started posting his recent series of work from the harbours around Ireland. He has graciously agreed to share some background on his experience as well as the Safe Havens project he is currently working on and fun project called The Frosties with us here at Without Lenses.

Balbriggan Harbour PegBalbriggan PierBally Vaughan New QuayBreakwater Rush HarbourCorner Howth HarbourDry Dock Howth HarbourRush Harbour StepsSkerries HarbourImages from the Safe Harbour project
Frosties 1Frosties 2Frosties 3Frosties 4Frosties 5Images from the series The Frosties

Without Lenses: Where are you located:
George Sheils: live with my wife and three sons in Skerries, some 30km north of Dublin, on Ireland’s east coast. It’s beside the sea. We spend quite a bit of time also in County Clare on the west coast.

WL: How long have you been doing pinhole work? When did you start working with zoneplate?
GS: Well, to date I have never taken a pinhole image. I’m probably not the norm because I started with zoneplate first, usually it is the other way round! I am a newcomer to lensless photography in that I shot my first zoneplate image last October (2009).

WL: What camera do you use?
GS: I use a Hasselblad 6×6 camera with a zoneplate set in a flange by William Christiansen of Wisconsin (aka Pinholebilly). The zoneplate is a 75mm focal length and has an aperture of F65. I shoot a mixture of 6×6 and 6×3 cm images depending on the situation.

WL: What’s your favourite camera for lensless work?
GS: Well as I just have one it has to be the Hassy, but I am building two cameras as we speak that will enable me to try other formats including 4×5 pinhole. I’m really looking forward to trying really long exposure images with the larger format.

WL: Do you have a favourite subject?
GS: I suppose I am fairly influenced by the maritime environment but I have recently started to look at other topics which don’t have anything to do with the sea. I have started a project on Burial Grounds which looks at the way we have dealt with our dead over thousands of years so that has me busy photographing dolmens, megaliths and various other burial sites particularly in rural County Clare.

WL: Tell us a little about the Safe Havens Project? What inspired you to start this work?
GS: Ireland is dotted with havens large and small, both inland and of course all around the coast. We are surrounded by the Irish Sea on the east coast while the north, west and south coasts stare out into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Naturally, these havens have been providing shelter for our fishing fleets, not to mention some of our early explorers like St Brendan The Navigator and also for some of our ‘visitors’ like the Vikings, Normans etc. I found it odd that nobody seems to have set out to document in a comprehensive way these special places to film and so I have committed to put aside at least a couple of years to capture something of of the spirit that makes these havens such a precious part of our leisure activities, livelihoods and heritage.

I hope that my images will capture elements which are ordinary as well as extraordinary about the various harbours and safe havens that I visit as each is unique and has unique features and aspects. I also feel that it makes for an interesting story given the amount of changes (both good and bad) to the fishing and leisure industries here over the last two decades or so. I would envisage that a travelling exhibition and maybe a book could result from the project…if enough people find the concept of interest.