Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold wins the First Book Award 2015

"A project called I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again, by Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, has won this year’s First Book Award. Born in 1977, Arnold has spent almost his whole life living his pictures in the town of Ballinasloe. The project, taken over the past five years, shows drunken knuckle-fights, hard men’s tears and derelict homes as the active participants in a post-recession landscape. “I never really had a project in mind,” Arnold tells BJP. “I just took the photographs at weekends to have something to do. The photographs are about this fatalistic atmosphere of male negativity. Machismo, and having nowhere to express it. I wanted to show how something feels, how it looks – to get the emotional desperation and the anger. I’ve never really talked about it with anyone before. It’s hard."

United Kingdom –

I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again is a diary of sorts, following men down piss alleyways and into empty bars. The photographer accompanies the seekers of oblivion, their lopsided faces caught between ecstasy and apathy, their mouths chasing after the numbness of inebriation.

This is Ballinasloe, a sandstone town on the River Suck in the easternmost corner of Galway in Ireland, seen through the eyes of a native, Ciarán Óg Arnold. Within the rabble, Arnold trails after the cast-offs, invisible men who spend their time in murky corners, choosing to do nothing but drift and drink. Ballinasloe is a mouth; in Irish, mouth of the ford, mouth of the crowds. “We claim to hate it here” , writes Arnold, “but the truth is that we choose to stay, hiding from reality, drowning in drink and wanting to be left alone as we await whatever fate is in store.”

Over the years, Ballinasloe has become a ghost town, its immobile economy holding back only the indifferent. Its empty clubs are the ordinary voids of an orthodox escapism, the unvarying nightly vocation that is also creeping annihilation. The town is haunted by the absence of those unseeable others, who have also departed – the suicide kids of Charles Bukowski’s poem, from which the book’s title is taken.


 JURY  

Michael Mack
Michael has 20 years of art publishing experience as the managing director of Steidl and publisher of MACK. In 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Plymouth for his contribution to art publishing.

Greg Hobson
Curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum, Bradford, Greg Hobson leads the Museum’s curatorial team in the conception and content delivery of its curatorial programme of exhibitions, displays and associated events.

Polly Fleury
Polly Fleury is Director of Special Projects at the Wilson Centre for Photography where she works closely with museums, artists, galleries and publishers bringing historical and contemporary photography to public view.

Simon Baker
Simon Baker is curator of photography and international art, Tate. Prior to becoming Tate’s first curator of photography in 2009 he was Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Nottingham. He has also curated photographic exhibitions internationally and has written widely on both photography and contemporary art.

Lucy Moore
Lucy Moore is the director of Claire de Rouen. She studied fine art at Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, and writes frequently as well as directing the bookshop and its new publishing imprint. In June 2014 she curated a new art book fair for the ICA, Room&Book. Bel Jacobs has interviewed her, and Norbert Schoerner is soon to take her portrait.

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