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John Minihan Skellig Michael: Home

A selection of photographs taken on Skellig Michael by John Minihan

John Minihan Exhibition at UCC Library

John Minihan Skellig Michael

UCC Library proudly houses the collection and archive of John Minihan’s oeuvre. The collection is comprised of more than 30,000 original photographic negatives and prints, featuring iconic images of Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Francis Bacon, Edna O’Brien and many other literary and cultural figures–from Jimi Hendrix or The Who, to Lady Diana Spencer.

Born in Dublin in 1946 Minihan spent his early career in London and became an apprentice photographer with the Daily Mail. At 21 he became the youngest staff photographer for the Evening Standard. Minihan's work has been exhibited in many exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

The exhibition, Skellig Michael, was on view from 26 October through 29 February 2024 in the Exhibition Space, Ground Floor of the Boole Library.

The silhouette of Skellig Michael holds a mystical fascination for many of us. It has been a pilgrimage destination long before the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015. John Minihan has photographed on and around Skellig Michael since the 1990s and as the monks before him, who populated the island beginning in the 6th Century, Minihan has sought solitude and peace on this secluded land.

In the photographer’s words: “Skellig Michael was the perfect assignment for me and my Rolleiflex Camera, loaded with black and white film. There’s a spiritual presence that fills me with peace and hope.”

Accompanied by poet Paddy Bushe Minihan photographed Skellig Michael extensively and repeatedly, capturing it’s natural and manmade beauty. Bushe writes:

"Silex Sancti Michaelis, as it is termed in a medieval text from Germany, is a place of liminality, of betweenness. What Shaw further characterised as “the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world” is at once intensely material and intensely spiritual. Its aspiration towards the eternal could be realised only through visionary but practical engineering, and long and arduous physical work by the monks. It is the best preserved early Christian site in Europe, but its historical record is meagre: three or four annalistic references, five or six names. Yet its presence in folklore, literature, travel writing, music and visual art is longstanding and insistent, both in Ireland and Europe."

John Minihan’s photographs artistically capture this intersection of the physical and the spiritual. The hardship and backbreaking work of the monks blossoms into stone cells, crosses, stairways and oratories. I know, from accompanying John on his visits there, how much the stony yet ethereal beauty of Sceilg Mhichíl impressed him, and spoke to his own sense of a spiritual world. A photographer perhaps more usually associated with urban and social settings, his pictures in this exhibition are a fascinating and valuable addition to the artistic heritage of Skellig Michael, and a testament to its continuing importance to us.