a photographic odyssey
Infused with a recent immersion in A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN and ULYSSES, I and my friend (the then poet Kirk Hamlin Perry - aka KHP - now Kirk Perry the novelist) struck out from our college in the UK at the end of spring term to spend Bloomsday in Dublin. The photographs that follow were taken during our walk through the city on June 16, 1993, in black and white, just as the cover of the Penguin edition of ULYSSES I carried in my rucksack was a black and white photo of the Ha’penny Bridge - just as all photos of 1904 would have been, a point of similitude across 90 years.
But the photographs do not set out to document a stream of literary landmarks; instead, they show sights seen naturally while going through the city, just as Bloom would have seen buildings and alleys and signs during his Odyssey (but perhaps viewed through the eyes of two ‘Stephens’). The photographs give glimpses of Dublin, not in any historical sense, but in sympathy with the detail of ULYSSES. Joyce’s novel describes the public places and private corners of a 1904 Dublin; the photographs offer public and private views in the same way, but capture a Dublin of 1993 with its unique differences. Some of the photographs show sights as Bloom could have seen them, buildings and spaces which were still in 1993 as they were in 1904. Others, tho, are images only Bloom (or Stephens) stalking the streets of Dublin in 1993 could see.
While most of the photographs are self-evident, it would take the most discerning eye to recognize that the hazy photo, aimed upward at a skylight, is from the interior of Davy Byrne’s Pub, taken while reenacting ‘Lestrygonians’. Viewers will also notice the lanky presence of Kirk in several photos. Since this event of bonding out of mutual excitement for Joyce, KHP has since disavowed any real interest in the master’s work - preferring Proust - and now has ‘given up’ poetry to hone the skill of writing ‘popular novels’... as if mirroring the structure of ULYSSES itself, the trajectory of KHP’s development has been absolutely protean.
The photographs record things universal, that are eternal because Joyce wrote of them in ULYSSES; but also, as in the book, the photographs capture fleeting things unique to the day of their inception, which now, in 2004, have irretrievably changed. KHP, and the other young ‘Stephen’ behind the camera, are no exceptions.