Neil Hoare – Elevating Everything

Berlin is an open invite for photographers, a beckoning finger inviting everyone from
selfie takers at Brandenburg Gate, fashion shooters in Kreuzberg, and polaroid-
snapping hipsters in Neukölln. The vibrant city, pockmarked and mottled by its
variegated history, is a technicolour dream for everyone armed with a camera, where
we can choose from the trashy aesthetic of S036 Kreuzberg and the “socialist
classicism” of Karl-Marx-Strasse, from the bounty of lakes dotted around the city and
the cobbled pavements of Prenzlauer Berg.
But more than anything, it’s the population that makes up the fibre of Germany’s capital -this mix of people of different worlds, carving out their own niches and writing their own
histories in this wildly diverse city. The pulse of Berlin has always been dictated by its
colourful surge of people. But In such a tumultuous year, our streets have been devoid
of their customary action, with Berliners being encouraged to stay at home, and tourists
being restricted in their numbers, posing potential obstacles to street photographers.
But through a mix of determination and enthusiasm for his craft, Neil Hoare is a
photographer having something of a breakthrough year, with one of his photos being
featured on the front cover of Der Spiegel, and a surge of appreciation in the Berlin arts
scene. Over a coffee on Oranienburgerstrasse and a walk in Tempelhofer Feld, Neil
tells me about what brought him to Berlin, his approach to photography, and how we all
have it in ourselves to change the course of our lives and do what we love.

Teufelsberg by Neil Hoare

Neil’s photos are compelling – merging visual verve, eye-catching colours, and a sense
of fluidity. The Spiegel photo encapsulates this style – a Hasenheide rave in the
summer defined by its purplish, alien glow, and the otherworldly, dynamic nature of the
revelry being depicted. But equally engaging are his portraits, and Neil has recently
been working on Irish Creatives in Berlin, an Instagram series in which he photos and
profiles a talented range of Berlin-based Irish artists. Like many, Neil speaks with
affection for Berlin as his adopted home: an appreciative platform for an aspiring artist,
so different from Dublin, which he speaks of as relatively stifling in its attitude to creative
talent. But only as far back as one year ago, the notion of finding success with his
camera seemed very far from his thoughts. “I came to Berlin in 2017 and gave up the
photography thing” he says, to my surprise, instead taking on a series of “soul-crushing”
jobs in commercial photography and working nights in a bar. Such work was not on
Neil’s agenda when studying film production and photography at Coláiste Dhúlaigh,
Trinity College and Wolverhampton. After completing his Masters, buoyed on by his
love for cinema and ambition to make movies, he went to Winnipeg, Canada in 2008 to
teach film to at-risk youth, where he realised that he had something of a gift for teaching
and “letting people talk”. But his aspirations were depressed on coming back home to
Dublin, in which he speaks of doing years of unsatisfying work in the midst of the
economic recession, and he tells me of an unfinished film project in 2012, in which he
was meant to document his friend covering the gruellingly hard Tour de France cycling route. There was surely one upshot to the unfinished film, though – it was during production that he took a tour of mainland Europe and got to know Berlin properly for the first time.

Why do artists flock to Berlin? Neil tells me of his appreciation for the openness of the
city, the liberal attitude, the receptivity to new faces. And Berlin would ultimately be the
place where he “fell back in love” with the camera, and where his creative ambitions
were rekindled. Deciding to refocus on photography rather than film as an artistic outlet,
the camera afforded a form of therapy in the fraught start to 2020. “I started bringing my
camera everywhere, without the case and lens cloth. I’ve taken thousands of photos in
the last few months, typically a hundred photos each time”. Where could he take
photos? Bars and restaurants may have been depleted, if not completely closed, but the
parks were always there, and he found himself roving Tempelhofer Feld and
Hasenheide on many an occasion.

Tempelhofer Feld by Neil Hoare

Indeed, it was in Hasenheide where he took the snap that featured in Spiegel. A typical
evening walk with his friend, armed with his camera, surrounded by huddles of
hedonists on a balmy evening in August, loud music blaring from all corners. Some
groups were rigidly adhering to social-distancing regulations. Others were clearly
overstepping the line, converging into huge groups, and the police were hovering on the side, waiting to maintain order: “at 2:30 in the morning all the lights came on, it was like an alien abduction.” Neil managed to capture the otherworldly surrealism of this night-
time revelry, and something compelled him to Instagram, and then “hashtag” the shots,
“just in case someone was looking”. Lo and behold, two people contacted him the next
day, one of whom was from Der Spiegel, looking for a picture to accompany a piece on
lockdown easing and illegal parties. So happy were they with the shot and the
distinctive way it had been processed, that they featured it on the front page of its 1 st
August edition in all its alien glory, giving Neil’s art an exhilarating nationwide platform.

Der Spiegel. 1.8.2020. Cover Photo by Neil Hoare

Getting featured on the cover of Der Spiegel was no fluke. Seneca’s quote: ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’ comes to mind when thinking about the elements that gave Neil this break. A look at his work unveils an artistic flair, resting both on a
vibrant visual style, merged with a non-judgemental approach to the subject matter. “I
want to elevate the normalcy of a situation into something more ecstatic” he says, with a
nod to one of his film heroes, Werner Herzog. He sees himself as an “editor” as much
as photographer, and uses a Canon 5Dmk4 in his work, with which he takes hundreds
of shots before finding ones he’s satisfied with, which he then touches up with Adobe
Lightroom. He talks of the improvised aspect of photography, where so much resides on a confluence of light, mood and chance encounters. “You can’t play jazz with analogue” he says, with customary wit, in explaining his preference for digital.

Neil’s wit, gregariousness and self-effacement make him a charming interviewee, and
qualify as valuable qualities for a photographer wishing to “get to know” their subjects.
Indeed, his gift for words and conversation come in useful in his latest project, Irish
Creatives in Berlin, in which he pairs buoyant photographs of Berlin-based Irish artists
with highly readable biographies. What lead him to start this? “There are so many
talented Irish people out there. Membership of Irish in Berlin is 3200 people, I need to
tap into this”. This seems like a perfect, mutually beneficial scheme whereby Neil can
showcase his photographic talents, while turning the spotlight on the city’s artists who
haven’t been able to perform this year due to Covid-19. The portraits, depicting
filmmakers, producers, comedians and musicians are linked by the ease of their
subjects, the care that has been taken to capture them in their environment, and the
witty, journalistic accounts Neil captions the photos with. Besides the merit of the
photos, the series is a heart-warming and positive affirmation of the virtue of
collaboration in a world in which there is far too much fear, friction and competition.
Indeed, as Neil points out, the people he photographs “don’t want to be in a super
competitive environment. They want the chance to relax and collaborate”.

Rob Moriaty from the Irish Creatives in Berlin series. Photo by Neil Hoare.

Two hours talking to Neil indeed turns out to be relaxing. As for collaboration, I get to
experience his methods first-hand, as he takes photos of me as we amble around
Tempelhofer Feld, chatting about everything from the Zum Goldenen Hahn Bar in Berlin to the films of Stanley Kubrick. Once we have achieved some degree of normalcy in society, he would like to put on an exhibition of his Irish portraits and do a separate
show of his more abstract photos.
“I’m doing something right. I’m taking photos for myself and no one else” he says, with
galvanising self-assurance. Coupled with his desire to “elevate everything”, the mantra
that underpins his approach to photography, I finish the interview enthused,
enlightened, and with a sense of optimism that transcends the miasma of uncertainty
and worry that shrouds this year.

Neil with his husky in Templehofer Feld. Photo by Tom Miodrag.

You can follow Neil Hoare on Instagram @hoaremonal

Ireland in Frame – Retrospective

We find ourselves in an era of postponement – the postponed holiday, the
postponed gig, the postponed return to the hedonistic abandon of our favourite clubs
and festivals. Yet some global trends continue at an unabated pace – the shift to a
digitally-based world, the obsoletion of traditional jobs and ways of life, and the
changed appearance to our city centres. Where does art fit into all this? Usually it
serves either to provide escape from the worrying aspects of our lives, or to provide
cultural edification and sustenance in times of turmoil. We need it more than ever to
provide clarity, substance and guidance to navigate the knotty, changing realities of
our everyday existences. But where can we find art in these days of social-distancing
and uncertainty?

Ireland in Frame is a street photography exhibition trail that has cleverly
circumvented the strictures of lockdown to give us cultural nourishment in our
troubled times. A striking photographic survey of modern life in Ireland curated by
Berlin-based musician Candice Gordon, who stepped into the role of cultural officer
at the Irish Embassy in Berlin earlier this year, the exhibition has a clear objective in
mind: to depict an Ireland devoid of clichés for curious Berliners, and online for a
global audience of art lovers. Candice manages this by assembling the works of six
photographers, whose collective work gives a startling, cross-demographic glimpse
into the lives of Irish people against a multitude of shifting rural and urban backdrops.
And rather than confining the work to one location, the exhibition scatters the photos
between screens in six Irish-run establishments peppered around Prenzlauer Berg,
Neukölln and Friedrichshain. This pulls off the feat of allowing us to enjoy a spectrum
of photography in six appealing cafes, bars and shops, meaning that what sets out to
be a window into real Irish life doubles as a Covid-friendly, miniature tour of some of
Berlin’s most celebrated districts.

Wheel of Life by Laura Jean Zito

Thrilled by the prospect of getting to visit some of my favourite parts of Berlin in one
day, I embark on the exhibition trail with fellow Irish Culture Berlin writer John one
windswept evening in September. We start off at Curious Fox, a cosy bookshop
situated between the dozy languor of Tempelhofer Feld and the multicultural splurge
of Karl-Marx-Strasse which turns out to be a fitting setting for the photography of
Laura Jean Zito, whose dynamic photos of fishermen in the mists of the Arans and
shepherds in Connemara are juxtaposed with schoolchildren on Achill island. The
photos effortlessly evoke the passing of time, detailing our former reliance on fishing
boats and horses and their supplanting by bicycles and cars. One picture in
particular encapsulates this generational shift: a boy cycling past an elderly man with
a wheelbarrow laden with wood on a country lane, showing a literal overtaking of old
traditions by modernity.

Croagh Patrick By Kenneth O’Halloran

In some ways, “motion” and “change” comes across as prevailing themes in the
photos we see on the trail, and pervade the works of Kenneth O’Halloran, whose
pictures are screened above a shelf of spicy wares at Crazy Bastard Sauce, our next
port of call. A young, hip clientele dine and chat away while the photos flicker from
the television above, depicting pilgrims to Croagh Patrick and chic young attendees
to the Trinity College Ball in Dublin. Echoing the vibrant splurge of cultures and
identities in Neukölln, O’Halloran’s photos are cinematic in scope, distinguished by
their bold colours and presentation of an array of people from different walks of life.

By Eamonn Doyle

As the sun sets, John and I set off for Friedrichshain, where we take a drink in the
spartan, low-lit bowels of the third venue on our trail, Badfish bar on Krossener
Strasse. Badfish dispenses with decorative frills, concentrating rather on craft beers,
cocktails and whiskey. And the accompanying photos here, courtesy of Eamonn
Doyle, are all in gritty, high-contrast monochrome, showing a multi-ethnic community
of Dubliners, usually in profile, against a series of soot-black buildings and
monuments, nicely echoing the equal importance of Friedrichshain’s aspirational and
multicultural population to the district’s identity as its rapidly gentrifying architecture.

Meath Street Salon by Lorcan Finnegan

With this in mind, we cycle on to Prenzlauer Berg for the final three venues on the
trail, where the warm, lamp-lit cobbled streets seem even more jarringly contrastive
to the run-down charm of Friedrichshain than usual. Shorn of the the rough-and-
ready punk aesthetic of Friedrichshain, it’s nonetheless easy to forget that
Prenzlauer Berg was originally a predominately working-class district, and its
reputation as a swanky, ‘bourgeois’ neighbourhood is still relatively recent. This
conflicted identity in some ways makes it the perfect setting for Lorcan Finnegan’s
collection, which beams from a television outside the original, flagship Badfish bar on
Stargarder Straße – a series of expressive and candid faces of predominately elderly
Dubliners in a city on the cusp of change. There is a sense of a colossal number of
stories waiting to be told in each face, just as a stripping back of each layer of paint
on a refurbished building may reveals something new and unexpected.

Italian Restaurant by Jeanette Lowe

The sense that a building has a huge story to tell and varies according to the eyes of
the beholder is central to the photos of Jeanette Lowe, whose photos are shown
outside Salt’n Bone, a gastro bar serving hearty Irish food on Schliemannstraße.
Lowe’s photos magically echo the sentiment of cosiness, showing cafes, bars,
restaurants and housing estates in Dublin’s centre with names omitted, and bathed
in pastel colours which bring the paintings of Edward Hopper to mind, exuding a
sense of timelessness and spirituality. The establishments come across as little
harbours of warmth and translucence in inky midnight blackness: small communities
of inner-city residents left to keep the depleted, pandemic-stricken centre alive, while
its usual office workers and shoppers are made to stay home in the suburbs.

Above image and featured cover picture both by Birte Kaufmann’ The Travellers series.

In some ways the final venue on the trail provides a perfect summary of the themes
explored in Ireland in Frame. In the warm and welcoming Misirlou bar on
Dunckerstrasse, in the midst of Prenzlauer Berg, which has long been celebrated for
its inclusiveness and internationalism,
Köln-based Birte Kaufmann’s striking photos of Irish Travellers shine a light on an
oft neglected and maligned aspect of Irish culture. The photos, shot in stark,
unblemished tones, show a world of caravans, horses and a shivering lack of
amenities. Yet it’s also a familiar world of dolls, dressing up and laughter. One
striking image shows two young children in school uniform, with a boy sitting on the
back of a caravan munching a biscuit, and a girl hanging up washing on a clothesline
lost in roadside brambles. It’s an evocation of a familiar childhood scene in an
unfamiliar setting. Where the photos here express societal isolation, they also show
instantly recognisable emotions that bind us all: boredom, uncertainties about the
future, kinship, and loyalty.

Put together, the photos offer a rich mosaic of sensations, traditions and
experiences. Just as it is impossible to reduce the sensation of living in Berlin to a
few words and images, the wealth of diversity shown in Ireland in Frame is an echo
of all our unpredictable, complicated, nuanced and ephemeral lives, and show that
there is far more to link us in our glorious multifariousness than separate us. By
showcasing such a wealth of talent while also drawing our attention to a handful of
standout Irish-run establishments in Berlin, Candice Gordon has achieved something
quite remarkable, demonstrating that cultural enrichment during this difficult year is
still possible when we dare to think outside the box.

Ireland in Frame ran in Berlin 18th September – 2nd October 2020
All photos from the exhibition can be viewed here:

Roseanne Lynch – Forgettings’ Trace

The Embassy of Ireland and Centre Cultural Irlandais Paris present a new body of work from Irish artist Roseanne Lynch. The work stems from her three month residency at The Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau in 2018.

Lynch’s starting point was an exploration of Modernist architecture, which she then moved away from to focus the teachings of the Bauhaus Vorkurs – the primary course undertaken by students at the Bauhaus School of Design, Architecture and Applied Arts. The course’ main aim was to encourage consideration of materiality by experimenting with basic forms, repetition and and rigour to study space and surface. Rather than creating images of architectural structures, Roseanne decided to work with fundamental forms – the square, the circle, the triangle and the straight line.

For more information on Lynch and her work please visit:

The work on exhibit is supported by Centre Cultural Irlandais.

Embassy of Ireland
Jägerstraße 51
10117 Berlin
+49-(0)30-22 07 20

Susan Connolly – “I aim to offer new ways to consider paintings”

Wandering Things. The exhibition’s title throws up one little question when you’ve learned how the Kildare born artist Susan Connolly has previously created many of her works – often large pieces installed into the walls of the galleries she exhibits in – just how will the paintings in this show transfer to a foreign gallery? Connolly clarifies; “The original idea was to exhibit the collection of ‘Wandering Things’ paint skins alongside a new ‘site-specific’ work but unfortunately, due to the listed nature of Kunsthaus Dahlem, this was not feasible. I have exhibited this work as a growing collection before, but this is the first time that I have all 4 previous installations together”.

When Connolly mentions site specific, she is referring to work she has previously created and exhibited in the Mac, Belfast or the Lab, Dublin amongst others. Pieces she first created, before moving them “on site” to the gallery, and fusing them into the showcasing walls. “My painting practice has increasingly moved towards a site specificity and a temporality. This aspect of the work has grown in its importance with the construction of the work revealing and presenting new ways of looking at our understanding and of one’s expectations of what a painting is, its presentation and how it holds walls within the exhibition/gallery environment. I am interested in every aspect of how the viewer ‘looks’ at painting and in my practice, I aim to offer new ways to consider paintings and how we ‘look’ within an expanded painting era”. For Dahlem, Connolly has also developed and introduced new armature structures, painted in cmyk colours: “I am really excited to see how they ‘hold’ the wall and give a floating like quality to how the 3 smaller (150x120cm) paint skins are viewed.”

The paintings I make come from an inquisitive and conceptual way of thinking about making images using the medium paint as the primary source.”

Susan Connolly

Connolly was invited to exhibit at the Kunsthaus Dahlem by curator Mirjami Schuppert, who was, until recently, based in Belfast where Connolly was finishing up her PhD from Ulster University. Schuppert, in attendance at a talk held by Connolly at the University, was left impressed and intrigued at how the work would impact the pieces outside of Ireland and the UK. “Mirjami thought it an interesting proposition for my practice too” adds Connolly.

Had she been looking herself to take the pieces abroad? Not really, but I am very excited to have this opportunity to bring my work to new audiences beyond Ireland. What really attracted me to this particular opportunity was the venue’s history as a ‘site’ of artistic production, and the work of Italian artist Emilio Vedora really stood out to me with his development of the walkthrough painting installations during the 1960s. His work really spoke to my own studio explorations as my paintings often explore ideas to do with the expanded nature of contemporary painting practices and the traces of the artists activity upon the visual outcomes.”

The two make for great company. Vedora was the first international artist to exhibit at Kunsthaus Dahlem and also explored concepts of how one views a piece. My little question has been, well and truly, put to bed; “Like all artwork there is always an interesting transition between sites of development, sites of production and sites of viewing,” Connolly concludes, “and how the works hold themselves in Kunsthaus Dahlem will add a further dimension to their ‘wandering thingness’, which will make the work unique to this particular exhibition.”

Wandering Things opens this Thursday, January 23rd 2020, and runs through to March 30th at Kunsthaus Dahlem. The opening is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m. For anyone curious to find out more about the artist, process or works, Connolly will also hold a talk on the evening of March 11th. For more information please check in at Kunsthaus Dahlem or Susan Connolly‘s websites.

Kunsthaus Dahlem
Käuzchensteig 8
14195 Berlin