Weaving over 2500 kilometres of beautiful Irish coastline, since its launch in 2014, the Wild Atlantic Way has proven to be an incredibly popular tourist route. And while it boasts world famous points of interest like the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and Skellig Michael in County Kerry – which recently captivated the world when it featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Ahch-To, the ancient home of the Jedi – one photographer is travelling it on a unique mission unrelated to sightseeing; to document the people that live there.
Created by freelance photographer Shay Hunston, the People of The Wild Atlantic Way project sees him meeting with individuals in a number of different villages and towns, learning their stories, and creating black and white portraits of them. “The project is a celebration of the wonderful people of the west coast of Ireland, an open-minded, independent, welcoming, tolerant people with great community spirit – a people free and wild at heart, living on the edge of the world. The opportunity to travel the route from County Cork to County Donegal and to put together a collection of photographs of these incredible people inspired the project,” Shay told Lonely Planet Travel News.
Starting in Kinsale, Shay has already completed the West Cork section of the project, and is currently working on County Kerry. As well as the picturesque, coastal route acting as the backdrop for the venture, the towns along the Wild Atlantic Way have also proven to be perfect for exhibiting the portraits, with many of the shopkeepers and publicans displaying the pieces in shop windows, while community events have also been organised to showcase the likenesses of the townspeople.
“The exhibitions had a remarkable effect by bringing people together and giving them pride in their village and town. The people who took part in the exhibitions became a topic of conversation and strangers would introduce themselves to them to talk about their photograph and caption, and I have had correspondence from all over the world about the project from people who have seen the photographs on social media. I’m also continuously meeting tourists and asking them about their experiences along the route,” Shay said.
Shay has already successfully exhibited the work to audiences further afield, and recently showcased some of the images in Panama City, Florida, where projections of the portraits were shown on the sides of buildings as part of a festival. Upon completion, Shay plans on publishing the photographs in a book, with all of the proceeds from the sales to be donated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
More of Shay’s work is available at his official website.