Despite the ongoing upheavals and closures, artists have been determined to make their art. The BarTur Photo Award introduced a one-off, open-call award for work exploring the impact of the current pandemic, and Irish photographer Enda Burke took the Creativity Award in its ‘Covid Reflections’ section. Founded in 2011, the international award has $10,000 in prizes for work judged to be ‘unique, compelling and inspiring’, with exhibitions of winners in Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin and New York.
Based in Galway, Burke shoots both portrait constructs and street photography with a 35mm film camera. ‘I usually do street photography [but] because the streets were so empty, I decided to turn the lens on the two people I saw every day.’
This combination of Catholic iconography and day-to-day domesticities builds up into a series of surreal scenes that are both semi-distanced and ironic yet nostalgic and affectionate
Burke’s stagings of his parents feature intimate, everyday moments from the lockdown: smoking, watching TV, snacking, shaving, solving jigsaws, amateur hairdressing, glum boredom and sheer escapism. All images are rendered in high-energy colours, creating a hyper-real universe. The wallpapers – featuring ferns, exotic fish and extravagant roses – compete with saints’ images, papal photographs and a St Brigid’s Cross woven from rushes. This combination of Catholic iconography and day-to-day domesticities builds up into a series of surreal scenes that are both semi-distanced and ironic yet nostalgic and affectionate.
‘Growing up in Ireland in the 1990s, I would always see religious images in people’s houses,’ says Burke. ‘These images fascinated, amazed and also bewildered me. I wanted to incorporate these images. I am also drawn to how small details of colour and play can become marvels in monotonous settings.’
Burke graduated with a BA in Photography and Filmmaking from Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University in 2013. His work was featured at Photoworks Trongate 103 in Glasgow in a showcase of the best of new graduate students.