A new photography exhibition is due to take place in County Mayo, Ireland this month that focuses on a time when freedom of religion was banned in the country under British rule. It features a collection of stunning images that trace a series of hidden paths through the countryside that Catholic people took in order to hold secret masses from the late 1600’s on.
Called Mass Paths, the project was created by photographer Caitriona Dunnett, and features dark and moody cyanotype prints of the Irish landscape, with each creation being hand processed and completely unique. Opening on 22 March at Custom House Studios Gallery in Westport and continuing every day until 15 April, the exhibition is the culmination of years of research and work.
In the 1690’s, strict Penal Laws were imposed on Catholics in Ireland, with the church being kept alive through a series of secretive masses held in spots across the country. The locations of the sites were passed on by word of mouth, with the local knowledge being handed down through generations. By tracing and documenting the paths, the photographer aimed to unearth the history behind the routes and the people who walked them.
“I think that it’s important to address national heritage. It gives us the opportunity to study the social, cultural and political situation of our ancestors and to explore the stories which mark our landscapes. I am attempting to lift this aspect of history out of the textbooks, and shape it with research so that the stories of these paths and the people who walked them are not lost,” Caitriona told Lonely Planet Travel News.
In order to complete the project, Caitriona spent years researching the paths and other penal sites, finding snippets of information posted by schools, regional newspapers and walking clubs before piecing it all together. The fragments eventually led to her creating maps, hunting for the locations and documenting them. Mass Paths was recently shortlisted for the Final 50 GPF International Photography Competition and exhibited in Dublin and Paris.
More information on Caitriona’s work is available at her official website.