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Mass Paths is a series of handcrafted photographs, landscapes of the Irish countryside embedded with absence. They portray the traces of paths walked by Catholics to reach illegal mass during penal times.
The Penal Laws were imposed on Catholics in Ireland in 1695 and religion was prohibited. The Church was kept alive by operating under great secrecy. Dunnett’s aim is to visually unearth the history behind these paths and the people who walked them.
The locations of these sites were passed on by word of mouth. This local knowledge was handed down through generations. The oral tradition in Ireland disappeared gradually around the 1960s alongside land exchange and redevelopment.
Dunnett has spent years researching mass paths and other penal sites, piecing the information together, scouring through word searches on the Internet, finding little snippets posted by schools, regional newspapers and walking clubs. These fragments led to maps, hunting for locations, hidden in the landscapes.
She has followed in the footsteps of the thousands of people who walked to penal sites across Ireland. Then recorded these reenactments in an attempt to capture their stories of resilience, courage and commitment so that they are not lost.
Dunnett has been experimenting with converting the digital photographs of her walks into contact negatives, creating and then toning cyanotypes, opening up a dialogue between photography, painting and etching. She is engaged by how this multi-layered process echoes that of a landscape which has been coated over the years by the complexities and tensions of politics, society, religion and people.
Caitriona Dunnett is an Irish photographer based in the UK. She has been exploring memory and narrative through nineteenth century photographic techniques crossed with digital technology to produce handcrafted images. She graduated from Nottingham Trent University with BA (Hons) in photography and has a MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, USA.
Recent exhibitions have included: PhotoIreland, New Irish Works, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; The Nottingham Castle Open 2016; The London Group Open 2015; Open 2015, Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum; The National Original Print Exhibition 2014, Bankside Gallery; Print Biennial 2014, RBSA Gallery; Photo Paint, Fringe Arts Bath Festival 2014; and The Walking Encyclopaedia, 2014, AirSpace Gallery.
She was awarded the Grain Bursary 2017, received a Grants for the Arts award from the Arts Council England 2015 and was shortlisted for the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2015 and the Annex Collection Acquisition Award 2016.
About New Irish Works
Selected by an international panel of 23 professionals, New Irish Works brings you a selection of 20 projects and 20 photographers representing the diverse range of practices coming from Ireland. New Irish Works 2016 is a year long project of 10 presentations and 20 publications that aims to highlight the great moment Irish Photography is experiencing.
The artists selected are Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Aisling McCoy, Caitriona Dunnett, Dara McGrath, Daragh Soden, David Thomas Smith, Eanna de Freine, Emer Gillespie, Enda Bowe, Jan McCullough, Jill Quigley, Kate Nolan, Mandy O’Neill, Matthew Thompson, Miriam O’Connor, Noel Bowler, Robert McCormack, Roseanne Lynch, Shane Lynam, and Yvette Monahan.
Every month from July 2016 to July 2017, a special presentation will be hosted at The Library Project for two of the selected artists at a time. The presentation will include a display and a publication for each artist’s project. The two artists that will be presented during PhotoIreland Festival 2016 are Daragh Soden and Mandy O’Neill.
As part of the project, PhotoIreland will bring New Irish Works abroad at key events like PhotoEspaña, with the support of the Embassy of Ireland in Madrid, and to Paris during Paris Photo, with the support of the Centre Culturel Irlandais and Culture Ireland.
Find out more: newirishworks.com
Limited edition of 200
Published by PhotoIreland
Please note: Local pick-up of orders is available from
The Library Project at 4 Temple Bar Street, Dublin 2.