These cannonballs come from the Casey family collection. Their family home is on Fishamble street, one of the oldest houses in Dublin with a partially intact medieval cellar. The Casey family have a multi-generational tradition of collecting militaria, every bit of wall space is covered with prints, uniforms and battlefield fragments. The collection represents a pre-second world war notion of celebrating the honour of military service; the colours, regiments, histories, sacrifices and characters associated with military tradition.
There are approximately 50 cannonballs in the family collection. Most of them were collected on the fields of battle, or from nearby antique shops or gifted to them by friends who share their interest. The collecting of military relics is a long standing tradition and was particularly perfected in Victorian times when stands of arms became a more domestic decorative feature both in interiors and in landscape design. There was considered to be a certain sanctity to cannonballs, weapons that may have shed blood, they are treated with respect as trophies. Military medals are traditionally made from the metal of historic guns. Originating in the Book of Isaiah there is the ambition that weapons can have a more noble afterlife.
As weapons they were intended to take out whole columns of men as they bounced along the ground at speed, a single roundshot could pass through over 30 men. They were fired at a low angle to do this and had a range of under a kilometer. Their consistency, roundness and smoothness, important qualities for accuracy, was a leading scientific pursuit of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Soldiers were often offered bounty for recovering used shot for possible reuse or to prevent enemy reuse. The cannonballs are made of various iron alloys, Iron, Carbon, Silicon, Manganese and Phosphorus. Depending on how they were made and the environment in which they have aged they have all weathered differently, in detail they become visually and metalurgically landscapes of war, partly iron, partly battlefield.
The photographic series began as observations of the abstraction of reconaissance photography (the black and white images) using old aerial reconaissance lenses from second world war bombers in large home made cameras. However the flattening affect of long lenses at long range can be achieved at this scale through digital macro focus stacking (the colour images), 12 image composites create the increased depth of field (everything in focus), similar to methods of insect photography. The disinterested detail and flatness of military imaging is a way of seeing that changes the normal perception of landscape.
With thanks to Michael and James Casey.
Exhibited Royal Hibernian Academy 2015
Powerscourt Townhouse Gallery 2017