WHEN one door closes, another door opens...
Castlemartyr wedding photographer Andrew Byrne found his work dried up when the coronavirus struck.
So he decided to frame images of these strange times we’re living in, by taking pictures of people isolating and social distancing, stood on the doorsteps of their homes.
As part of his mission, he is raising vital funds for Barnardo’s — and says he was given a warm welcome by people wanting to take part in it.
“I’m running a documentary series of photos capturing local people on their doorsteps to mark his moment in history,” says Andrew.
“I think it will be a valuable memento to have for our children and our grandchildren, marking this very unusual time during Covid-19.”
Andrew, who is married to Mary and has a two-year-old daughter, Ruby, adds: “As tough as these times are, it is important to mark this moment in history as we live through it.
“It is great to give local people that snapshot in time when we all had to stay at home.”
Andrew is also aware that many charities are struggling for vital funds during these tough times.
“It is at times like these that it is important not to forget charities like Barnardo’s when so much focus is on the frontline.”
Andrew feels fortunate.
“I am lucky that I have a full-time job with Dell in Cork. Being a wedding photographer too, though, I’m not in much demand these days!
“But that will change in time. I love capturing that special day on camera for couples and I look forward to a time when I can work behind the camera again for those cherished occasions in people’s lives.”
In the meantime, Andrew is working on his Covid-19 project, framing precious memories for local couples and families, spreading unity, distilling beauty among the mayhem, through the ideal medium of the camera.
He is delighted that funds raised for Barnardo’s have exceeded €550 so far.
Lots of front doors in his East Cork locality were opened for Andrew.
“The response has been great,” he says. “People loved the idea of having their photograph taken on the doorstep. It gave them a chance to get dressed up, put on their Sunday best and have a bit of fun. They were thrilled to have a chat with somebody else too!
“Lots of children due to receive their First Communion or get their Confirmation put on their Communion dresses and their Communion/Confirmation outfits for the photos.
“It was great for families to have those photographs for those precious occasions that didn’t take place yet. It was brilliant sharing those feelgood moments with the locals.”
Among those who feature on the other side of Andrew’s lens is Dee Johnson, of Castlemartyr. She thought Andrew had come up with a great idea and agreed to be snapped on her doorstep with husband Ray and their children, Katy and Lily
“We think it was a brilliant idea for a brilliant cause,” says Dee, whose family have also been organising Cork Penny Dinners collections during lockdown.
“This is going to go down in history and our great, great, great, great grandchildren will have a memory of this moment.”
Susan McKeown, another participant, says the pandemic is a historic occasion.
“This is the first time anything like this has happened us. It’s very historical; it’s very momentous. It’s a huge thing in time,” says Susan.
“We might not realise it now, but we will look back and think; did we live through that? All our lives have completely changed.
“It’s taught us that we can work from home. We don’t have to travel as much. We realise that we don’t need so much.”
Susan and her husband James, who were pictured in their garden by Andrew, are becoming more self-sufficient during the lockdown.
“Susan invited me to the back of the house to see their vegetable plot — via the side gate so I was still distanced from them,” says Andrew.
“Susan and James believe in getting back to the garden and growing your own vegetables now more than ever.”
Treasa Edmonds and her husband, Ronan McGrath, whose baby was due on May 5, were also delighted to mark a precious moment in time.
“It was nice to do this because we missed out on so much — being with family, having a baby shower — and this was something we could do to mark the moment,” says Treasa.
Andrew is making another house call when Baby arrives.
“I’m going back when they have the baby,” he says. “And I’ll take another photo for them.”
En famille this time round?
“Yes,” says Andrew. “Baby makes three!”
Andrew and Mary are welcoming a new family member too this summer.
“Parenthood hasn’t impacted on us too much, we’re enjoying the beauty and the good coffee brewed in East Cork,” says Andrew.
“We knock the coffee back a bit quicker and listen to the Frozen soundtrack, and I still manage to shoot some lovely shots.”
Andrew admits to being a besotted parent — and admits to being a nerd.
“I’ve been a life-long nerd, and I include a camera nerd in that! I shot my first wedding in 2015,” says Andrew. “It wasn’t something I’d ever planned on, but life sometimes has a way of showing you new paths. “In this instance, I walked down it.
“Since photographing my cousin’s wedding, I haven’t looked back, and to be honest, every year behind the camera makes me more passionate and excited about what I do.”
He has a bird’s eye view.
“I love the front row seat I get into people’s lives,” says Andrew. “Even if it is only for one day. But what a day though!”
Andrew is popular among the wedding parties.
“I love the Irish mammies trying to feed me, friends teary-eyed when the bride puts the dress on. Dads doing their dad best to keep it all together. Dad thinks; this is my one day and I’ll be a wreck!”
Andrew, through his camera lens, has a unique insight into humanity, connection, and love. “I love seeing that first look between the bride and groom,” says Andrew. “I love all of it!”
And the couples love having him for their wedding day, marking the most wonderful day of their lives.
“The thanks and messages I get from couples all over Munster when they receive their photos is what it’s all about for me,” Andrew adds.
He savours the icing on the cake.
“To give these awesome couples photos that they can look back on for years to come, whatever life may bring, is the most fantastic feeling.”
And having people like Andrew in our midst, who is just giving, helping the most vulnerable in our society, is a truly awesome feeling.
Barnardo’s mission is to help transform children’s lives through their services, and support parents’ capacity to reduce problems later in life, improving their children’s social and emotional development, thus enhancing the wellbeing of family.
Link to Facebook post on the event: https://www.facebook.com/1565393073694948/posts/2626033904297521/
Mary Gamble, Barnardo’s Director of Fundraising said: “We are so grateful to Andrew for running this wonderful photography project fundraiser for Barnardo’s. During the COVID 19 crisis, Barnardo’s has adapted to ensure we help children and families in Cork already in vulnerable circumstances by providing crisis supports like food parcels and activity packs for families. To find out more about our work during this pandemic visit www.barnardos.ie.”