The Library Project: Show and Tell
Show & Tell Interviews: Ángel Luis González Fernández of The Library Project
“We published a book a few years ago, and we tried to stock it in Easons, who told us it was a specialised book. It was just a book of 25 Irish photographers, and if that’s specialised, then forget about the rest of it.”
Getting independent books and works of art and photography stocked for sale in a city as small as this is rarely easy. Angel Luis González Fernández of The Library Project, a gallery, bookshop and library nestled away among the bars, restaurants and tourist traps of Temple Bar, explains the rationale behind the endeavour, which has run since 2011.
Starting out at the second PhotoIreland festival, the Project moved about for a couple of years, going between the Steam House, and the Copper House, before ending up in Temple Bar in 2013. It has worked like a dream. “I don’t know where else the Library Project could survive”, he admits. It is in the centre of the city, in the very definition of a high-footfall area.
The tourists thronging about only add to it. Being in one of the busiest urban streets in the country has obvious advantages.
“We tend to think of tourists as dumb-headed, but we are all tourists, and many of them are as educated as we like to think we are, and they do buy, they do like to buy these kind of specialised books, they appreciate finding these bookshops in the main tourist areas, just like we do when we go abroad.”
According to Angel, “the stereotypes are true” about the area, but this shouldn’t detract from anything. “Strategically you can depict it as a drinking area, but you also have a lot of galleries and some of the main cultural institutions as well, so it’s a tricky mix, but I think it’s an ideal mix”. The National Photographic Gallery is around the corner, and for all the tat, the district is bursting with cultural centres of all kinds if you decide to look in the right place.
Of course, in general the city, while it has come a long way, can seem to lag behind other European capitals when it comes to exhibiting photography. There has been a network of festivals and galleries strung together over the last number of years to allow artistic photographers promote and sell their work. Artists now “are not relying on a festival or gallery to make this happen”, says Angel, “but the problem remains perhaps that in Ireland, there is not that much photography being exhibited. There may be a big exhibition in IMMA every now and then”, other exhibitions here and there, but all around the national landscape there is a limited amount being exhibited.” Compared to elsewhere on the continent, we have a way to go yet.
The raison d’etre of the project is to provide an outlet for sale of local artists and photographers. As Angel says, finding work by or about local artists can prove difficult. The Project stocks books and prints from Ireland and abroad that people may have thought it impossible to get in this country. The whole purpose is to make money for the artists. Aside from books being sold through the shop and at exhibitions in the space, individual projects like the ‘Greetings from Ireland’ postcard series prove that there is a demand for artistic produce if the supply is brought to the right place. Angel mentions the pernicious assumption, prevalent across the arts that art and commerce ought not to mix. Noble but not useful. “In the end the artist has to eat”. The Library Project are busy trying to ensure that most of them do.