‘The Married Life of Atoms': A special celebration of the life & work of photographer Harry Kerr
and live on Freeview channel 276
The exhibition is curated by his life and work partner, Martha McCulloch, and will open on Saturday, December 2, from 6-8pm at the Saldanha Gallery, Fort Dunree.
Born in Coatbridge, Scotland, in 1960, Harry Kerr left a lasting impact on the local arts scene and wider community, making Donegal his home over 20 years ago.
A well-known figure in Inishowen and beyond, Harry and Martha founded ‘The Memory Factory’ where they documented significant moments in the lives of many locals over the past two decades.
In addition to his work at The Memory Factory, Harry was deeply involved with various aspects of the local arts scene, collaborating with Artlink, designing websites, promotional materials, and documenting events through photography and video.
He played a pivotal role in creating the Laurentic memorial at Fort Dunree, commemorating the lives lost in World War I. In recent years, Harry shifted his focus from photography to filmmaking, particularly documentaries.
Harry Kerr's influence also extended beyond the arts, as he was known for his walks around local beaches and parks with the couple’s dalmatians.
His connection with the community was profound – and his passing in 2022 led to tributes pouring in from colleagues, students, and friends from across the globe.
Life and work partner Martha McCulloch, said: ‘The Married Life of Atoms’ is really a glimpse into Harry the artist, showing a selection of his photographs that delve into his diverse interests and concerns. From landscapes and archaeological artefacts to portraiture and performance documentation, this showcase of Harry’s work reflects his unique perspective on meaning, interpretation, space, time, location, communication, and the intrinsic beauty of the photograph.
“Harry was educated at the Glasgow School of Art, where he developed a passion for photography as a fine art medium. Throughout his career, he used a range of cameras, from his toy Diana camera to large format plate cameras. He had a particular fondness for the Diana camera, embracing the peculiarities and aberrations of this particular photographic device.
“’The Married Life of Atoms’ also features proposals for unrealised or partially realised works, providing a deeper insight into Harry’s creative process.
This includes a proposal for an installation of slides, illuminated by electronic flash triggered by motion sensors; inspired by the images of the apocalypse invoked in the book of revelations and the Bhagavad Gita as quoted by Robert J Oppenheimer.
The work was intended to reference both the nature of the photographic exposure and the analogies and images referred to by Oppenheimer as he witnessed the flash of the first atomic detonation.”
In conjunction with the solo exhibition, a Photography Symposium will be held on Sunday, December 3, featuring respected photographers, from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, who have been connected to Harry Kerr in various ways.
The symposium, aimed at extending Artlink’s exchange and collaboration with Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, will include presentations by:
Calum Angus MacKay on 'Unnad' - Indigenous
Amanda McKittrick on the relationship between botany, colonialism, and history
Christina McBride exploring landscape and materiality in photography
Anthoney Haughey photography as Fine Art
Peter Finnemore on the language of photography and tonal metaphor
Paul McGuckin discussing the condition of photography as a fine art in Donegal
Frank McElhinney on the long history of migration between Ireland and Scotland
Furthermore, the symposium will mark the launch of the Harry Kerr Memorial Bursary, a €3,000 grant aimed at supporting emerging artist photographers and documentary filmmakers in the early stages of their careers.
The bursary, created in honour of Harry Kerr's legacy, seeks to provide opportunities to those from socio-economically deprived backgrounds.
Artlink project co-ordinator Rebecca Strain said: “On a daily basis Harry pushed the team at Artlink to achieve great things and to see the innate beauty in all of our endeavours. I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to come up and see this inspiring body of work that has been carefully and lovingly put together by Martha.
“This celebration will provide a great opportunity for photographers, artists, friends, colleagues, and anyone whose life Harry touched to gather, raise a glass, share stories, and celebrate the wonderful life and work of Harry Kerr– a visionary photographer and artist who left an indelible mark on the local community.”
Martha McCulloch added: “I have no doubts that it will be a heartfelt gathering, reflecting on the memories and celebrating the enduring legacy of Harry – a generous-hearted, self-effacing and creative man who was also a wee boy at heart – gazing in wonder at the stars from the coal bunker in the backyard of his family home in Coatbridge.”