Born and raised in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, lifestyle and press photographer Marie Carroll O’Sullivan has always had a passion for photography.
“I took a summer job in a ribbon factory in Roscrea one year and out of my first pay cheque I purchased a camera,” she tells Celtic Life International via email. “I was always the friend who had a pocket camera on nights out.”
In 2004, O’Sullivan lost a close friend to cystic fibrosis (CF). After this loss, she began fundraising for CF each year.
“This is where my press photography began. I started taking photos [for CF] annually and exporting to the press. In and around the same time I opened my own photography page The Little Memory Gallery.”
Today, O’Sullivan says that press photography has “taken a little back seat” to her private work, which includes baby photoshoots, christenings, communions, parties, engagements, and weddings.
Her most recent project, a book called Behind the Mask, Killarney, was a labour of love.
“Not being one to sit still for long where my work is to document I found the pandemic, COVID-19 difficult, as did many. We were restricted to two kilometres initially. I was fortunate to live in a densely populated area which allowed me to visit the parents and relatives of my friends that lived further afield.
“I began making back garden visits for a snap and a chat as well as photographing empty streets at a time that we would call high season,” she continues. “At the end of 2020, I realized there was a book in me!”
The 364-page coffee table book documents O’Sullivan’s local pandemic findings through images, interviews, and COVID-19 facts. On her Instagram page, she notes that Behind the Mask, Killarney is a history book that is “oozing positivity and resilience through tough times.”
“It is in no means a sad book – it is uplifting and heartfelt. I think many of us came out of the pandemic with less notions and a slower pace of life – but a more meaningful one. It was rewarding, but I don’t think anyone will ever know the extent of what goes into creating a book. Compiling these stories and recording these images is all about the light it brought to peoples faces – especially the elderly.”
O’Sullivan explains that all proceeds will go to three local charities that she has hand-selected: Keeping it Local, the Kerry branch of the Irish Cancer Society; Nathan’s Walk Pieta House, an annual event held in memory of Nathan O’Carroll, a 14-year-old Killarney native who took his own life; and the COVID-19 2020 team at the UHK.
Understandably, the project took a considerable amount of research.
“The book is a timeline of events from January to December of 2020. I recorded the restrictions we were under monthly and documented images that were relevant as well as people’s stories and how they were managing the restrictions in their daily life.”
O’Sullivan adds that she couldn’t be happier with the response.
“We made the Christmas market locally by the skin of my teeth and have just recently began selling the book online through my website. I cannot explain how great the product is – no photo will do the quality and the content justice.
“Unfortunately, COVID escalated just after Christmas 2021 so there wasn’t much socializing to hear what the word on the street was initially. But since then, I have been out and about again with my camera and the feedback has been overwhelming. Behind the Mask has featured hugely in the media in Kerry and I am as proud as punch to say that a copy of my book resides at Trinity College Library, the National Library of Ireland together with many local libraries in Ireland.”
She is ready to get back into lifestyle-based projects for the rest of 2022.
“I am very much looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and enjoying documenting my clients lives and that of the community. I have missed it so much and now that the ever-changing weather in Ireland is picking up and the days are getting longer, you could find me anywhere!”