cultural heritage Des Mullan documentary photography fine art Ireland landscape photography



// Des is a photographer from Dublin, Ireland. With an eduction in Visual Communication, with a specialisation in graphic design and photography, his current job as a film director means that he tends to use his camera in preproduction to scope out the angles and compositions of scenes. But he also uses the camera privately when walking around for his own satisfaction. We present some photos from Des´s long-term series of vistas of two decommissioned industrial chimneys in Dublin Bay, which he has conflicting feelings about, but which he has photographed in very special ways.

“Having studied visual communications I specialised in graphic design and photography, so having a camera in hand was a constant. I worked initially in graphic design and then as a creative director in advertising. I had the opportunity to work with and commission some of the best photographers around. For the past 20 years I’ve worked as a film director, and similarly worked with some fantastic cinematographers. My style is based on being visual as much as possible, and I always use the camera in preproduction to scope out the angles and compositions,” he says. “Making my own photographs is liberating, as it is usually just me and a camera and nobody to answer to and to only satisfy myself. The advancement of grading in film has added a whole new layer of craft to the process. Similarly in photography, but the essence of it is the same, just with more possibilities. I bring a lot of colour correction, dodging and burning to my shots and will try many different ‘looks’ before settling on the appropriate one. It’s like uncovering what is hidden, the process brings it to life, adding atmosphere and emotion. As Ansel Adams said ‘Photographs are made not taken.'”

“You can’t wait for creativity, you have to go after it with a big club.”

Jack London

What draws you to the arts?

“Curiosity. As a creative person curiosity is your greatest asset. Always be looking and seeing, ‘what’s that?’, ‘who’s in there?’, ‘what’s around the corner?’ Read a book see a play or just go for a walk. Take it all in, it’ll be useful sometime. For real artists it is a vocation and a struggle that doesn’t just require talent but dedication and determination, and there’s a lot of failure and only fleeting moments of success. Frankly there are easier ways to make a living. But when it comes to it, seeing great work is a transcendental experience.

I studied visual communications, majoring in graphic design and photography, so looking at the world through the eyes of an artist is just the way I am. I’ve worked as a designer, art director creative director, and for the past 20years as a film director. Looking and seeing, recording, drawing, painting, photographing, and filming is just what I do, I can’t help myself.”

What do you like best about your chimney landscape series?

“I like the way this project crept up on me, and it was only while reviewing my archive that I found I had so many shots of these chimneys from a variety of angles. I framed them as beautifully as I could, they are horrible chimneys in an incredibly beautiful setting.”

About his series of photographs of the Poolbeg chimneys, Des says, “Will I miss them when they’re gone? It’s hard to frame the bay without them in it. Omnipresent on our skyline for the past 50 years, about a second in the time clock of Dublin Bay. Of no artistic or architectural merit whatsoever, the quintessential epitome of form brutally following function. They are chimneys, nothing else. Not iconic, not a gateway to Dublin, not the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. Just two decommissioned polluting chimneys that have served their purpose. And yet they unmercifully draw our eye, demand your attention. Lording it over our beautiful but fragile Dublin bay.

Why do we want to save these relics while neglecting our infinitely more precious natural resources? It’s our bay we should be saving, not these crumbling interlopers. There is a lot of affection and nostalgia for these chimneys and most want them retained and repurposed, though that comes with significant cost. I say knock them down, they’ll be forgotten in ten years. I’ve taken these shots over a period of time, maybe up to ten years. All shot on digital with an amount of colour correction, dodging and burning in Lightroom, and that’s pretty much it. I generally frame in camera and try not to crop, only for crooked horizons.”

Even as we second the wish – and indeed necessity – to preserve natural landscapes, in Dublin and elsewhere, we think that in some of these images Des has put these chimneys into such stunning cinematic moods that their industrial purpose takes a backseat, and they are transformed into something that appears to be an almost natural part of the landscape.

Click on the photos to see a larger image. Some images may be cropped for layout.


To see more of his photography visit Des´s various websites platforms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.