christy mcnamara biography

Photographer – Musician- Artist

A professional artist born in Crusheen, Christy McNamara is a keeper of the tradition he learned through family and community at home in County Clare. He plays button accordion and concertina, sings and composes. Equally, he is a photographic artist and a teller of stories. His photography captures an intimate portrayal of Irish rural life, beginning in County Clare. It is significant on both aesthetic and documentary levels: , he focuses on a locale, with the insight and understanding of an insider.

Traditional music is rooted in place and Christy has used his images to tell a personal story of home, family, tradition and the passing on of those traditions . He says: “I began this work almost 20 years ago as a matter of urgency; many of the older people featured in this body of work are now dead and gone. I was privileged to have grown up around them, to hear them play and to be part of this music family and community. It captured my heart and I learned so much from listening . I would never have been able to take these intimate pictures without being part of it. This is a view from within and a celebration of those who played the music and passed it on.”

His photography is influenced and referenced by the work of the great master documentary and portrait photographers of the 20th century. The images are all authentic photographic images; they are uncropped and are made from the original negatives. They were all shot in the available light and made with the pre-digital era cameras (a Nikon F3, Leica M6 and Roeliflex) that he still uses in his work.

Christy has received recognition both as a musician and as a photographic artist. His 2007 debut album, “The House I Was Reared In“ was critically acclaimed and his photography of traditional musicians and their environs. His  book “The Living Note,” a collaboration with writer and radio producer Peter Woods (O ‘Brien Press, 1996, currently out of print) has gained  worldwide attention and praise through exhibitions, publications and awards. It is an intimate view of musicians in the act of creating, bringing the viewer into that  ”other world ”   they inhabit as they play.

His work has been exhibited extensively and it can be found in public collections, including that of Clare County Council and The Irish Traditional Music Archive. It has been sought after by private art collectors, including Hollywood Oscar-nominated screen writer Jeff Maguire and the actors Brad Pitt and Whoopi Goldberg.