The island of Ireland is known for its outsized literary tradition: Its novelists, poets, and playwrights have produced many of the world’s most significant works, across centuries, genres, and styles. As a student of that grand tradition, Philadelphia-area photographer Robin Hiteshew has made a decades-long project of capturing the images—and even the essences—of as many contemporary Irish writers as he can. Fifty-eight of his finest portraits will be presented at the Villanova Art Gallery from March 13-April 14, 2020, in his exhibit, Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers.
Visitors to Beyond the Words will encounter the likenesses of poets Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Eamon Grennan, and Michael Longley; and novelists Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, and Glenn Patterson, among many others. Some writers—like Heaney—sat for Hiteshew multiple times over the course of several years, and each portrait captures a different moment in the writer’s evolution. Always, the images represent a collaboration between the photographer and the subject. Hiteshew says, “My goal is to try and capture in a portrait something about who the person is. I hope that the viewer will come away from the photograph knowing something about who that person is in some kind of intangible way. But also, I hope that the viewer will leave wanting to know more about the writer—to read his or her work, perhaps.”
Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers, photographer Robin Hiteshew’s exhibition at Neumann University, drew an audience of many admirers for its opening reception Tuesday night.
It was an eye-opener for the visitors who dropped by to spend time with Hiteshew’s photos of writers and poets such as Seamus Heaney, Moya Cannon, Michael Longlay, Ann Enright, and Mike McCormack, author of Ireland’s Novel of the Year, “Solar Bones,” who was in attendance.
The work represents 39 years’ worth of work for Hiteshew, who most times found complete and generous cooperation from his subjects—and other times needed to nudge a little. It was all worthwhile, as his exhibition will attest.
NEWS RELEASE: Neumann University is hosting an exhibit of photographs by Robin Hiteshew. Entitled Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers, the free exhibition runs June 5th to June 23rd in the McNichol Art Gallery.
The opening reception, originally set for June 6, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, June 11, from 4-7 p.m.
Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers represents one of two long-term projects Hiteshew has worked on for more than 39 years. He first began taking photos of authors in 1969 and is still actively working to document the ongoing literary world. He has nearly one hundred authors represented in his collection of portraits, including Moya Cannon, Michael Longlay, Seamus Heaney and Ann Enright. The Donegal Association of Philadelphia sponsors the exhibit, which is funded in large part by an Irish Heritage grant through the Irish government’s Emigrant Assistance Programme. The aim of the grant is to connect with Irish citizens living in the United States.
The bearded face of Northern Irish poet Michael Longley stares out pensively from its frame in stark black and white. It is one of nearly 100 intimate portraits of Irish authors captured by Robin Hiteshew over almost 40 years, a project that blended Hiteshew’s profound love of literature and his passion for photography—a talent he has refined to crystalline perfection.
Fifty of these author portraits will be brought together in an exhibition, “Portraits of Irish Writers,” which debuts June 5 at Neumann University in Aston, Delaware County. Sponsored by the Donegal Association of Philadelphia and funded by an Irish Heritage grant through the Irish government’s Emigrant Assistance Programme, it is Hiteshew’s second major photographic project funded by the Irish government. The first was “The Face of Irish Music,” portraits of Irish musicians from elder statesmen like fiddler and composer Ed Reavy, Sr., to young fiddler Haley Richardson, presented at the Irish Consulate in New York City in February 2015.