ARTWALL 2019: Hugh MacConville

ARTWALL 2019: Hugh MacConville

in Archive
Leitrim Design House were delighted to launch a collection of work by Sligo based photographer Hugh MacConville entitled 'Fleeting Moments of Light.' Hugh’s passion for the Irish landscape and its history shone through in this exhibition.
Masking Ballintrillick


Born in Dublin, he started working in photography in 1969 and learned the craft the old school way. Working with a number of well-known photographic studies enabled Hugh to develop his techniques that allowed him to stretch the artistic potential of black and white, silver-based film to its limits. 

Hugh shares some insights into his process: The secret of photography is to capture the mood of a fleeting moment of light in the landscape and to understand the nature of that light. Photography is always a voyage of discovery about the world around you and the people in it. Living in this northwest corner of Ireland is a great place to do this. When you are on the hunt for a photograph you learn something new and this leads you to newer places and different ways at looking at things.

Fairy Tree

Hugh’s development as a photographer, along with involvement in the citizens’ campaign for the preservation of the outstanding Viking archaeological site at Wood Quay, made him passionate about documenting Ireland’s landscape and architectural heritage. He had already made a campaigning documentary film in 1976, Going Going Gone, that highlighted the exploitation of Ireland’s mineral resources, at places like Tara Mines and Silvermines in Tipperary by foreign-owned mining companies with little long-term benefit to the Irish people.

The failure of the campaign to protect Wood Quay’s Viking remains prompted him to leave Dublin and settle in the Northwest. Here Hugh encountered the ever-changing light of Ireland’s Atlantic coastline, which captured his imagination as a photographer. Hunting for and preserving on film the extraordinary images created by the impact of changing light on the landscape became his life’s passion.

Spring in Kesh

In campaigning mode again, Hugh spearheaded a drive to preserve Ireland’s little-known heritage of clay houses, by initiating and illustrating the book Ireland’s Earthen Houses (A&A Farmar) in 1998. His images featured in another book documenting a neglected aspect of our architectural heritage, Legacy of Light: A History of Irish Windows by Nessa Roche, published by Wordwell Books in 2000.

Hugh exhibited in Sligo, in 2004, a series of photographic studies of what he calls Tidelands, the border zone along the shore where sea water meets and reaches into the land, creating extraordinary images that come and go with each changing tide.

Hugh left photography for a period of 20 years to work as the organiser of the Gaisce President’s Award in the Northwest. Since he retired from that role in 2016, he returned to photography and we are very glad that he did. This collection was the result of his focus at the time and included images from around the region.