In 1996 I was selected for a residency in Paris as part of the cultural festival, L' Imaginaire Irlandaise. I had just finished my work as a war photographer in the Former Yugoslavia and needed to focus on another side of life. I embarked on a series of portraits of eccentrics in London, Venice and Paris. These were either friends or aquaintences who havea very distinctive style where often their living space or the area where they lived was a refuge from reality. In this series the first sequence shows Emile Targetta my former neighbour, a Venetian resident whose entire life seems to revolve around the Carnival that takes place in the city each February. What intrigued me about Emile was that every day was a chance for him to dress up in his 17th century costume and embody the spirit of decadance and exotic realism that still conjures up Venice in our imagination. The second personage is a friend, an Irish Filmaker called Mortimer O Sullivan who lives in North London, a collector of antiques and bric-a-brac from some of London's finest markets. His space has become a haven from the often harsh reality of trying to survive as an artist especally during the economic realism of post-Thatcher Britain. His space is really a homage to cultural icons and objects that reflect his love of the parallel world of cinema . The third sequence in this series shows another friend, the Croatian filmaker Emina Kurtagic, taking tea by the Albert Bridge in Chelsea. The title of this piece is "Chelsea Chicks" after the gossipy historical book written by her friend Maria Parry who is seen drinking tea with Emina and another friend Fiona Mc Donald. These portraits were a way for me to disengage from the intensity of war photography and launch my imagination into a new sphere.

© 2017 Helen Sheehan