Dan’s ‘Life Through A Lens’

Dan Cullen. (1101PG20)
Dan Cullen. (1101PG20)

Eden Place Arts Centre will celebrate its 20th anniversary in February.

In order to commemorate the milestone of their ‘china anniversary,’ the community arts facility will display a special exhibition of black and white photography which was developed in the centre’s own dark room over the course of the last ten years.

The photographs were taken and developed by Bogside man Dan Cullen. Dan has been using the Pilot’s Row based art centre for the last decade, there he developed his love of black and white photography ‘developed’ over many years.

The exhibit, entitled, ‘Life through the Lens’ details life both on the streets of Derry and Dan’s favourite holiday destination, Egypt. The exhibit contains splendid portraits and landscapes from events as diverse as The annual Apprentice Boys’ March, The Jazz Festival, street drinkers, Anti-war protests, life in Egyptian villages and portraits of young boys collecting material for the August 15 bonfires. Photographs from his 16 year partnership with the Foyle Hospice will also form part of the exhibit.

“I climb Croagh Patrick with them every year and of course I always take my camera. Each year I hang a few pictures of the previous summer’s climb for those families returning to the event. You always get some great shots on that walk.

“In truth the exhibit has been in the making a lifetime.”

Dan explains: “I have been using this dark room since 2001. I first became interested in photography with a City and Guilds course with Dan Byrne. Then I came here to learn from a lovely lady called Marie O’Donnell in 2001 and she introduced me to the dark room, that is when all the fun started. I love the art of black and white photography. It is like a drug. It pulled me in and I just don’t get the same return or rewards with digital photography as I do from black and white. I enjoy the photographs but the three hours on your own developing the art is very enjoyable too.”

The process of photography has changed dramatically since Dan first lifted a camera, a manual Russian vivator was his first model. He has since graduated to using an EOS IV top of the range model.

“No matter what equipment I have I always remember Dan Byrne’s words of encouragement,” shared Dan, “‘you love photography’ he said ‘so you are on your way.’ That said I am still learning.”

Such is Dan’s connection witih the dark room at Eden Place Arts Cente that the centre wanted his photographs to be hung in order to mark the special milestone.

“To be honest both Judi (Logue, centre manager) and my wife have been telling me for years to get an exhibit prepared but I was happy enough coming in and using the dark room every Friday night. Had it been left to me alone there would have been no exhibition but this centre is just so great and supportive I couldn’t keep saying no.”

So why the change of heart?

“Basically I just gave in to them, nothing else really changed my mind,” laughed Dan.

“When I told my wife Christine, she said ‘I don’t believe it.’ I really think the power of the exhibit is in capturing little moments of history, little snap shots of street scenes etc. They are almost entirely happy scenes from the Apprentice Boys’ on the march, to a little girl dancing at a jazz festival street gig.”

‘Life Through a Lens’ opens at Eden Place Arts Centre at Pilot’s Row on February 13 and runs for two weeks.