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Q&A with photographer Naomi Gaffey - 'I really identify with Marianne in Normal People. I can relate to her awkwardness'


Naomi Gaffey

Naomi Gaffey

Naomi Gaffey

Growing up in Greystones, Co Wicklow, Naomi went to school in Loreto Abbey in Dalkey and graduated from DIT with a degree in fine art photography. Currently, she is working with her sister and brother-in-law on a new project called The Positive Space, a city-wide exhibition that will use the currently empty billboards around Dublin. Naomi lives in Dublin.

What's your earliest memory?

Myself and brother, Cormac, were entertaining ourselves by making magic potions. We needed a secret ingredient, which just happened to be a big lock of my younger sister, Corina's, hair. As she was sleeping, we trimmed her fringe right to the hairline.

What was the first book you loved?

To Kill a Mockingbird, as it deals with injustice, and I come from a family that worked in all aspects of law enforcement. So it really piqued my interest when I was younger, and I toyed with becoming a solicitor.

What's your best holiday memory?

My mother had never been to the States, so for her 60th birthday, we took her to New York. As part of the holiday, we went to the River Café. Sitting under the Brooklyn Bridge looking at the New York skyline and sipping Prosecco was definitely a highlight. Something I can't wait to do when we can travel again.

What is your biggest fear?

Moths, butterflies... anything that can fly and has more legs than me.

What are you most proud of?

Carving a career in photography. I'm most proud of being able to continue what I studied in college in a really demanding industry, which has been through a tremendous amount of change over the last decade.

What's your least attractive quality, and your most?

Just like Victoria Beckham, I'm not a natural-born smiler, but I am actually a happy person. I might come across as aloof, but I'm just taking it all in, and I'm a great listener.

What's the first thing you'd do if you were Taoiseach?

I'd probably resign because I wouldn't be very good but, joking aside, anything to do with addressing the gender pay gap would be first on my agenda.

Who would you most like to go for a pint with?

Robbie Ryan, the Irish cinema photographer who has worked on The Favourite and Marriage Story, as I'd love to possibly move into film in the future. But it wouldn't be a pint - a glass of wine, please, Robbie!

What fictional character do you most identify with?

Marianne in Normal People. I can relate to her awkwardness at times, but admire her quiet confidence.

What is your most treasured possession?

I tracked down a film camera I wanted for ages, and it's quickly come to be my new favourite treasured possession.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Sour-cream dip and salt-and-vinegar crisps, and any murder mystery documentary on Netflix.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

My lecturer in college used to always encourage me to make an original contribution to knowledge, so I always try to be as authentic as possible in my work.

What item in your wardrobe do you wear the most?

My Gucci runners, I've had them for years.

Who are your heroes?

Cindy Sherman, one of the most successful female photographers. I looked up to her when I was in college, and she inspired my end-of year project.

When did you last cry?

I re-watched Up and the scene where the house took off with the balloons, I cried at that.

What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?

Because I'm self-employed, I spend a lot of time on my own, so I realised I'm more resilient than I realised; I definitely didn't find it as hard as others.

What are you going to do right after this interview?

Have a coffee and prep myself for being on the other side of the lens. Eek.

What keeps you awake at night?

The Luas, it literally passes below my bedroom window. I didn't realise how early they start until now.

What's your greatest passion in Life?

Light - I work with it and try to figure it out daily. It's ever- changing, so keeps me on my toes when I'm shooting.

If you had to choose three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

Loyal, grounded, and creative.

What's your favourite film?

Florida Project, or anything Robbie Ryan has worked on; still waiting to go for that glass of wine with him.

What's the last TV show you binge-watched?

Like everyone, Normal People, and I actually watched it twice!

What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Stop worrying, it will all work out. There's an answer for everything.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Teleportation, it would come in handy right now!

What does your dream weekend look like?

Since lockdown kicked in, I'm actually craving the simple, ordinary things like going for a drink and having a wander around the shops, followed by a BBQ with family.

What job would you be terrible at?

Definitely not a hairdresser, my cutting skills leave a lot to be desired. Also, anything to do with accounting or business, as numeracy isn't my strong point.

Do you believe in a God?

No, I'd be more spiritual than religious.

The Positive Space starts this Monday and runs until July 12. Twenty photographers, including Boo George, Linda Brownlee, and Enda Bowe, will be displaying their images across 500 empty poster sites across Dublin

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