By Suzanne Pender
A STRIKING portrait of a Co Carlow man features in a unique ‘Paddy Irishman’ cultural photography exhibition which opened this week ahead of St Patrick’s Day in New York city.
Paddy Cahill, originally from Knocknatubbrid, Ardattin, but who’s now living in Carlow town, is among 50 stunning portraits of Irish men named Paddy, Pat and Patrick from across Ireland being showcased to counter the common stereotype of the Irish Paddy and to tell a new narrative of contemporary Ireland.
Three years in the making, the large-scale immersive exhibit by photographer and filmmaker Ross O’Callaghan features Paddies from all walks of life, including some more famous Paddies such as comedian and TV personality Patrick Kielty, gay and differently-abled activist Paddy Smyth and professional golfer Padraig Harrington.
The ambitious exhibition opened this week at Pershing Square outside Manhattan’s Grand Central Station and runs until 22 March, introducing the Big Apple to 50 Irish Paddies from the 1,000-plus Paddies who applied. An interactive audio-visual installation is also featured for the next for two weeks on a giant digital billboard at Times Square.
As an ICU nurse at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, Paddy Cahill has an interesting story to tell about what it means to be a Paddy today, particularly in light of his experiences working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I saw it on Instagram and I thought it was a really interesting project, so I messaged Ross, as I was familiar with a few things he had done previously,” explained Paddy to The Nationalist.
As part of a video interview in the installation, Paddy reflects on the enormous impact of Covid-19 and its enduring legacy.
“Like every nurse in the country, we were really fearful; it was a time of uncertainty and in a very short amount of time we had to prepare for what was happening,” he says.
“There was this surge of fear that I’d never experienced before and we had some really bad experiences in St Luke’s, where two of our colleagues died from Covid, which really fueled the fear when you are working face to face with people for 12 hours,” Paddy told ***The Nationalist***.
“You feared for your life, your feared for your parents’ lives … the lives of loved ones.
“With the introduction of the vaccine, things did begin to settle down and finally you could put your mind at ease, but it does make you focus and look at the important things in life,” said Paddy.