Joe Sterling: Acting Normal

  September –
October 2004

Image by Joe Sterling from the exhibition Acting Normal at Gallery of Photography Ireland, September 16 – October 17 2004.

Acting Normal is a body of work by photographer Joe Sterling, which he started in 1994 after the break-up of his marriage and which has become a long term study of his three children after they went to live in France with their mother. The following are his notes.

“September 1994 saw the traumatic departure of my three children to go and live in France with their mother. It would be four months before I would see them again. As the weeks and months passed by, I decided that when they returned to Ireland for a visit, I would try to record the diferent rituals and places they identified with and the camera became the medium by which I continued my relation with them.

When I first started this body of work in 1995, I was not aware of the significance it would have on the memory of family life my children experienced in both countries. The camera has become a voice, an instrument of communication between myself and my children, observing and being part of everyday events that most families take for granted. Powerful stories of relocation and love are caught and held by the photographs and the memories they evoke. The frame contains and reinforces the two different sets of family traditions and icons.

To an extent these images replaced their physical presence, as I became adjusted to the reality of living apart from my children and the distance that now seperated us. These pictures are a celebration of their ability and my ability to adapt to this new relationship and they offer important insights into the children’s development, strengthening and reinforcing my sense of fatherhood.

We all accept photographs as being a normal part of our upbringing, never really questioning or giving much thought to what they mean. Are they truthful representations or just glimpses of the surface of a deeper reality unseen and uknown? John Berger has written that all photographs are” a form of transport and an expression of absence”.

The exhibition was curated for the Gallery of Photography by Christine Redmond.

About the photographer

Joe Sterling was born in 1954. He lectures in photography at Sallynoggin College of Further Education. He has also been a guest lecturer at Newport College, Gwent, South Wales, where he obtained an Hons BA in Photography. This is his first solo exhibition in Dublin.

Press Information

To arrange an interview with the artist, or for further information, please e-mail;

The exhibition was supported by Alison Edge and Brian Redmond.