Exhibition showcases the marine life of Cork's stunning coastline

An exhibition in Cork marries the work of a talented photographer and an equally talented visual artist. DAVID FORSYTHE finds out how it came about, and discovers the duo want people to know about the marine life on our shores
Exhibition showcases the marine life of Cork's stunning coastline

One of the paintings that features in the exhibition called Depths, at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.

A PHOTOGRAPHER and a visual artist have teamed up to put on an exhibition highlighting the biodiversity of the West Cork coast

The show, called Depths, is an innovative joint exhibition by photographer Daniel Lettice and visual artist Holly Delaney, and is currently on display at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.

The exhibition uses Daniel’s striking wildlife photography displayed simultaneously with Holly’s own artistic interpretations of the original photographs. The aim, explains Daniel, is very much to make people aware of the wildlife around them.

“It was a strong motivation to just show people what’s out there,” said Daniel, who is originally from Cork city and now lives near Clonakilty.

“A lot of people don’t really realise the wildlife that’s right on their doorstep and in West Cork that’s particularly true of the marine wildlife and the birdlife we have,” he said.

The exhibition is made up of dozens of stunning wildlife photographs taken by Daniel, mostly from the last five years or so, and visual interpretations of them by Maynooth-based artist Holly Delaney.

The two initially met through a mutual interest in wildlife and their professional relationship developed from there.

A photograph taken by Daniel Lettice, that showcases at the Depths exhibition.
A photograph taken by Daniel Lettice, that showcases at the Depths exhibition.

“Holly was working on a project about wolves and she just happened to read something I had written on efforts to reintroduce wolves,” said Daniel, “and that’s how we originally got to know each other.”

The pair struck up a friendship and began exploring ways they could work together using wildlife as the common theme.

They settled on the idea for the joint exhibition and plans were put in place for a show.

“That’s when Covid came along and changed our plans for us,” said Daniel, “but now we are finally here and it’s been fantastic to see it become a reality.

Most of the exhibition is focused on marine life, a particular passion of Daniel’s, with the majority of the photos taken from the Holy Jo, skippered by Colin Barnes of Whale Watch West Cork in Union Hall.

One of the photographs that feature in the exhibition called Depths, at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.
One of the photographs that feature in the exhibition called Depths, at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.

Daniel added: “I’d say about 95% of the photos are taken with Whale Watch West Cork and they are all taken within 10 miles of the West Cork coast.

“It just shows the huge variety of wildlife we have along our shores and that’s what we want people to get from this. This is here now and we need to protect it or we will lose it.”

Originally starting in sports photography, Daniel has been taking wildlife photographs for more than 20 years and in the last few years has become one of the leading local wildlife photographers, based in West Cork, well known though his social media channels under the name @IntothewildIreland.

“It’s my passion,” said Daniel, “and I’ve gotten more serious about it in the last 10 years or so I suppose. I get out there taking photos, and videos too whenever I can.”

Another painting by Holly Delaney, in the exhibition  Depths, at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.
Another painting by Holly Delaney, in the exhibition  Depths, at Ballydehob’s Working Artist Studios until April 15.

Though he still has a day job, he hopes to one day be able to commit full time to wildlife photography. “That would be the dream, but for now I have to be content with taking photos whenever I can get a chance,” he added.

One of the photographs that feature in the Depths exhibition, taken by Daniel Lettice.
One of the photographs that feature in the Depths exhibition, taken by Daniel Lettice.

Daniel’s photos speak for themselves, but he’s the first to admit that when it comes to artistic ability, Holly is the driving force in the exhibition. She grew up in Dublin near the Phoenix Park and has always had an interest in wildlife that forms a significant part of her work.

“I can barely draw, but thankfully Holly is a very talented artist,” admitted Daniel. 

“Wildlife photography can be a very documentary form but I think Holly’s paintings add a whole other dimension.

“I think when you see the photographs and the artworks together, they really bounce off each other. The paintings definitely bring something out of the photos, it’s hard to describe but it’s definitely there.”

The exhibition features a range of animals including whales, dolphins, seals, otters and birds, all captured in the wild off the coast of Cork.

Daniel hopes that visitors to the exhibition will come away thinking a bit more about our wildlife and not just take it for granted.

“We have to protect what we’ve got and for that to happen, people need to be aware of what we have and also how it is threatened,” he said.

“There has been a lot of over-fishing of sprat off our coast for example that has had an impact on whale populations. We used to see a lot of fin whales, the second biggest, but they are less common. Now we are seeing more and more humpbacks that we didn’t see so much before.”

Daniel believes eco tourism has a strong future in West Cork and he hopes his work can highlight what’s on offer along the Cork coast.

“We have one of the best whale watching destinations in Europe here, it’s right up there even in terms of global destinations,” he said.

“There is much more potential to develop what we have here sustainably and that’s the way we have to think. We hope the exhibition will open people eyes even a small bit to our amazing wildlife.”.

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