Girlhood followed eight years of family life to create beautiful exhibition

Shannon Maughan in the exhibition Girlfood

Shannon Maughan in the exhibition Girlfood

A new photography exhibition documenting all of the major life moments of one family from Castlebar over the last eight years opened yesterday evening at the Custom House Studios in Westport.

The exhibition, Girlhood by Orla Sloyan, is an unusual sort of project that started out as assignment on cultural diversity when the artist was studying for a BA honours in photography at DIT in 2007.

The college project never really came to an end.

Instead, Ms Sloyan, who is also a full-time nurse, ended up following and photographing the lives of the Maughan family from Castlebar, for eight years, focusing in particularly on three sisters, Shannon, Martina, and Rosemarie, as they navigated the many joys and trials of girlhood and their development into their teens.

The resultant exhibition was named Girlhood partly because of the subject matter but also as a play on the film title Boyhood, last year's Oscar winning hit movie which filmed, in real time, the main character's boyhood over 12 years.

There are 15 photographs in the exhibition and Ms Sloyan said she is "excited, but nervous too" about seeing her work over the last eight years go on public display in what will be her first solo exhibition.

Ms Sloyan said there have been too many highlights over the years to single any out particularly memorable occasions. She simply said it was an ongoing priviledge and joy to have been welcomed into the Maughan family, year after year, to witness so many of the milestones in their lives.

She has photographed new arrivals, christenings, Communions, confirmations, and lots of other big family occasions as well as simple moments in time, captured in portraits of the characters who tell the story of Girlhood.

"What started out as a project on cultural diversity became so much more," explained Ms Sloyan.

"This [exhibition] has turned into a family album of contemporary Ireland.

"I wanted to capture these beautiful colours and beautiful images of kids growing up in Ireland, coming out of the Celtic Tiger, at a time when there were so many changes going on."

The exhibition opened yesterday (Thursday ) at the Customs House Studio, The Quay, Westport, and continues until August 3.

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