The Immigration Museum’s latest exhibition Leaving Dublin: Photographs by David Monahan showcases the stories of Irish migrants who have departed their homeland over the last three years to seek new lives in Australia and elsewhere.
‘We are delighted to be the first venue outside of Ireland to show this exhibition,’ said Padmini Sebastian, Immigration Museum Manager. Not since the dark days of the great famine of the 1800s has there been such movement of people from Ireland. I encourage visitors to see and hear about people leaving Dublin in this thought-provoking exhibition and to share their own stories and photographs of leaving home.’
The stories are told through more than 30 poignant images taken by Dublin-based photographer, David Monahan, who has personally witnessed the sadness and emptiness left by friends and family who have migrated from Ireland.
Today’s Irish migrants are from a generation considered to be one of the nation’s most privileged, having enjoyed the successes of the country’s economic boom in the mid-1990s and then experienced the current recession that has left many unemployed and largely in debt.
Monahan’s large-scale photographs capture the sense of adventure, excitement, hope, sadness and anxiety of those leaving their home country, in the hope of a better life.
His subjects are set within Dublin landscapes that are significant to their past, with most seated on a vintage, weather-beaten suitcase that connects this new wave of Irish migrants to those of the past. All images are captured at night, with the subjects and the landscape brilliantly lit, as if set on a stage.
‘This project is a unique visual documentation, which enables us to share the stories of these migrants and show them in a true heroic spirit,’ said David Monahan.
‘They are making a huge jump into the void of uncertainty and this needs to be commemorated. I am honoured to have been able to sit for a few moments with each person, to silently consider the magnitude of their life changing action.
Monahan’s beautiful collection of photographs also act as a connection between Australia’s Irish heritage and the situation today – where large numbers of people are again leaving Ireland for a new life. With 10 per cent of Australians claiming an Irish ancestor, Australia has proportionately more people of Irish descent than any other place outside Ireland. In the last year alone, more than 7,000 Irish citizens have obtained Australian work visas, adding another chapter to the story of the Irish in Australia.
Leaving Dublin also invites people to share their own contemporary or historical family stories of leaving home by contributing photographic, video, audio or written responses for possible inclusion in the exhibition. Stories can be recorded in the exhibition, while photographs can be submitted online at Museum Victoria.
The Immigration Museum is proud to host the Australian premiere of David Monahan’s photographic exhibition, which is proudly supported by Culture Ireland. Entry is free with Museum admission.
Issue 19 of Tinteán, the magazine of the Australian Irish Heritage network also featured David Monahan’s photographs and the Leaving Dublin Exhibition.