Conor Clinch is recognised as one of Ireland’s top fashion photographers. Coming from North Dublin’s Coolock, Fresh documents the characters and charisma of his surroundings through a beautifully produced photobook. Though largely discussed and covered by the media in terms of his fashion photography, discussing Clinch’s work in terms of portraiture offers a fresh outlook on the young photographer’s portfolio.
Clinch’s passion for photography began at an early age, buying his first camera at age 14 before truly knowing how to use it. However, from capturing self-portraits and still life objects Clinch’s passion developed into an infatuation with capturing the character of friends, models, and strangers through his lens. Speaking with RTÉ presenter Darren Kennedy, Clinch acknowledges that, ‘Your job as a photographer isn’t just to take photographs, it’s about really connecting with the person.’ (1) Fresh shows Clinch’s dedication to capturing this connection as we see a collection of intimate portraits of models and young men taken from the street.
Finding acclaim on Sky One’s Ones to Watch, Clinch was selected as Rankin’s protegé on the show. Rankin as a founder of iconic magazine Dazed & Confused is praised as one of the most influential names in fashion. In terms of his photographic practice, Rankin has photographed everyone from the Queen of England to David Bowie and boasts an impressive body of work stretching over decades. As for having such an iconic artist as your mentor, Clinch describes the experience as amazing and has discussed how it has influenced and strengthened his work. Clinch says, ‘He pointed out my strengths and weaknesses. My strengths: working with natural light and showing personality through the photographs. My weaknesses: trying to work my style into a studio and replicating what I do with natural light on a more commercial level. He told me not to change my style to make money – to stay true to myself.” (2) As for Rankin’s faith in the young photographer, the respect is mutual - 'Every day I look at the work of very talented young photographers; but very rarely does one stop me in my tracks. Conor Clinch is one of those rarities.’ (3)
In an age where many people have access to smartphones and cameras, Clinch uniquely captures the individuality of his subjects. Commanding the viewer’s attention, Clinch’s portraits stand out in a society of endless scrolling and selfies. The young photographer himself thinks that the increased accessibility of photography is a positive thing, yet acknowledges the differences in intention. Speaking on Spin1038, Clinch noted that, ‘everyone has a smart phone.. Anyone can take a photograph but then again there is a photographer and there is someone who just take photographs.’ (4)
Fresh sees Clinch’s use of Samsung NX30 and Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom transform the way we view smartphone photography and portraiture. The Fresh project and publication was created with the assistance of Rankin, his team, and the Samsung’s ‘Launching People’ campaign. Growing up in North Dublin, Clinch’s early work was heavily influenced by his surroundings. Fresh examines the ‘lad’ culture present in working class areas, with a specific interest in the pride these young men take in their appearance.
Taking inspiration from David Urbanke and Alasdair McLellan, Clinch’s style sees a frank and intimate depiction of his subjects with non distracting backgrounds. Fresh sees blocks of pastel colours behind the Clinch’s collection of lads. The soft tones contrast with the lads which pose before them. Pairing this soft colours with the hard young men gives Clinch’s images a depth and visual texture which enrich the photographic portraits.
Talking about some of the young men featured in Fresh with Darren Kennedy, Clinch talks about that very edge that makes his subjects so interesting. Describing that, ‘that tough hard man attitude that he has kind of drew me in. Walking down the street like he owns it’. (5) Having had the idea in mind for a while, Samsung and Rankin allowed Clinch’s vision to become a paperback and digital reality. Clinch’s fascination with young, working class men came from his own upbringings in Coolock, North Dublin. In his early years of photographing and meeting other creatives Clinch took inspiration from what he knew and understood, which allowed him to develop his unique style. This deep interest and personal involvement with what Clinch photographs give him the ‘ability to see and capture the honesty and vulnerability of his subjects comes out in a very organic and perhaps effortless way.’ (6)
Speaking with Sinéad Baker of University Times, the young photographer offered advice for those hoping to break into the industry, “Absorb yourself in it. If you want to do it, you’ve got to do it every day and you’ve got to be super passionate about it”. (7) Indeed, Clinch stays true to his own advice, as his successful career evolved from his dedication to his craft. Despite his young age, Conor Clinch has undeniably made a name for himself in the world of photography. As Rankin states in the foreward, ‘Fresh is an apt name for this book, capturing young men and their attitudes to clothes in a unique way. But the word ‘Fresh’ could just as easily be used to describe Conor’s work. He evokes a unique view of the world which is entirely his own.’
Contact & Follow:
RTÉ2, Conor Clinch, #TRENDING, (October 2014). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A096pDE0BH4
Deirdre McQuillan, ‘The Snapper: The Teenage Dublin Photographer Rankin is Raving about’, Irish Times, (May 2014). http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/the-snapper-the-teenage-dublin-photographer-rankin-is-raving-about-1.1806851
Spin1038, ‘Coolock’s Conor Clinch has Rankin Raving’, Spin1038, (May 2014). http://www.spin1038.com/spin-talk/coolocks-conor-clinch-has-rankin-raving
RTÉ2, Conor Clinch, #TRENDING.
Ann Ravinther and Filipe Phitzgerard,’ Conor Clinch - Irish, Young and Talented’, Fword, https://www.fwordmag.com/single-post/2016/05/06/Conor-Clinch-Irish-Young-and-Talented
Sinéad Baker, ‘London’s Hottest Photographer is an Irish Teenager’, University Times, (November, 2015) http://www.universitytimes.ie/2015/11/londons-hottest-photographer-is-an-irish-teenager/
All Images from www.conorclinch.com
Words by Elly Collins