Out of context, Ross Mcdonnell’s photographs resemble scenes from Kurt Russell’s classic “Escape From LA,” or for those of you on the east coast, “Escape from New York.” That is to say, Mcdonnell’s series, entitled “Joyride,” resembles chaos incarnate, something that only those wacky apocalyptic writers could dream up.
Alas, S.D. “Snake” Plissken is not to be found in these photographs (sorry to disappoint). Instead, what you’ll find are bone chilling photographs of an armed and reckless Irish youth. The series namesake “Joyride” is a ritualistic practice that involves stealing a vehicle, evading the authorities, and then setting the vehicle ablaze once all the joy has been squeezed out of the experience.
Ultimately, what Mcdonnell has captured is more than just incriminating evidence. It is, instead, a snap shot into the harrowing lives of Ballymum Flats residents. For those of you don’t know, the Ballymum Flats were Dublin tenements, or projects (most, if not all, have been demolished). They were relics of Irish independence. In fact, the seven towers that comprised these projects were named after Irish leaders who were put to death after the Easter 1916 uprising, which was a desperate and bloody attempt made by Irish citizens to end British Imperial rule (Think: American Revolutionary War, only more current).
In response to the uprising, William Butler Yeats wrote:
I write it out in a verse–
MadDonough and MacBride
and Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be.
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born.
This is what Mcdonnell has managed to capture in the still exactness of black and white. A terrible beauty echoing from a bloody past and manifesting itself in the smoldering present, Mcdonnell’s photographs serve as a reminder of the progress society has made and has yet to make.
For more by Ross Mcdonnell, visit www.rossmcdonnell.com.
By Scott Warfe