For over a decade, award-winning photographer Mandy O’Neill has engaged with children and young people in formal education contexts in primary and post-primary schools in central Dublin. O’Neill’s photographs have emerged through mix of formal residencies supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and more local arrangements in keeping with the dynamics of school life from year to year.
O’Neill’s exhibition Quiet At The Back brings together new and acclaimed work from the series’ Aspiration [2005-2007] Promise [2012-2015], Champions Avenue [2017-2019] and The Whole Room Went White  This is a timely reflection on O’Neill’s photographs of children and young people going to school through the decade most impacted by the austerity measures that followed the global financial crisis and Irish banking scandals.
Prompted by an interest in the transitional states of childhood and adolescence, over time complex questions have surfaced about how important and powerful ideas about having aspirations and access to opportunities can affect children and young people’s expectations. Most of the schools where O’Neill found and formed long-standing connections are part of the initiative known as DEIS, which was started in 2005 by the Department of Education and Skills as a way of ‘Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools’. The first year of the scheme coincided with the beginning of O’Neill’s ongoing work with children and young people. Quiet At The Back contemplates the place of school among the frameworks in place to support and nurture young lives through adolescence as they become adults.
At the same time Quiet At The Back is presented at the Gallery of Photography, a programme of workshops devised with students and staff at Larkin Community College will take place at the school. This concludes O’Neill’s time as Artist in Residence and will draw out students’ thoughts around photography, self-image and the impact of the online and social platforms for which photography is now routinely created, distributed and re-distributed.
Mandy O’Neill’s residency at Larkin Community College was supported by An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland’s Young People, Children and Education Bursary Awards, 2017-2019.
Mandy O’Neill would also like to acknowledge the support of Larkin Community College, Staff and Students – past and present, Gael Scoil Bharra Dublin 7, and Francis St Boys School Dublin 8, The Digital Hub, Dublinb, Arts Council Ireland, Val Connor, Niall McCormack, Noel Browne, Jim Butler & Inspirational Arts and The National Gallery of Ireland.
This project is also funded by the Government under the North East Inner City – Dublin Initiative.