DublinTown Profiles – South William Studios
Perfectly located in the heart of Dublin’s Creative Quarter on South William Street, South William Studios is a brilliant space for photography, videography, casting or just general venue hire in DublinTown.
This 900 square foot studio, located in a 200 year old Georgian building boasts original artwork from various Irish artists such as DUDA, Guggi and DMC. A relaxed atmosphere makes SWS the ideal venue for all of your studio and venue hire requirements in Dublin’s creative quarter.
The studio is situated on the top floor of 22 South William Street. This was the DublinTown team’s second trip to SWS as we were here just a few months ago shooting the Dublin Fashion Festival Lookbook.
We had a chat with owner, photogragher and videographer, Alex Sapienza about the space and his work here.
DT: Tell us about the studio, and how you came to open it
AS: I opened the studio two years ago. I come from a film/ documentary background, but I always had a passion for photography. My brother is a photographer in New York and I always kind of dipped in and out of it. I decided to start doing slightly different things, that’s why I do a lot of 19th century photography here and gloss aluminium using a Victorian camera. Then because I am busy doing other stuff with documentary and film work, I don’t want to leave the studio space empty, I want other people to be able to use it, maybe use it as an artistic hub. It’s kind of a waste to have a studio like this lying empty. The goal is for the studio is not just to be used as photography, but in general for when people need space in town. It’s a great exhibition space.
DT: How did you end up in Dublin and in particular the Creative Quarter?
AS: Well, two years ago the Creative Quarter wasn’t as trendy as it is now but I was looking for a central space and I always had a soft spot for this street. It’s nice because there are no high street shops; the area is all run by local people. There’s the attraction of people being a bit freer here- you’ve got the sex shop, Grogan’s, hair salons – it’s such a good mix with Powerscourt on the other side.
DT: What is your favourite thing about Dublin and living in the city?
AS: Dublin is a capital city, but it’s small enough that it’s intimate. I like its familiarity, I like to bump into people that I know and places like London and New York are a little bit daunting to me. I like to get to know people and talk to people on the street; you don’t really get to do in bigger cities. When I moved here I was in my early twenties so it was a great party town, and I think I still have a good few more years to give to this city. I guess its familiarity and the fact that there is a lot of stuff going on – in terms of art, museums, and theatre it ticks all the boxes from my point of view that a city should have.
DT: Do you have any art that is inspired by Dublin?
AS: I do a lot of portraits, and they are all inspired by people. I approach people on the street in Dublin and it’s not a big deal, I ask them to be part of an exhibition or to do a portrait. It’s part of the Irish charm, being able to interact with people very easily. It might be in a bar or it might be on a street. I like to take photographs of people with scars on their faces, not physical scars if you know what I mean. Interesting faces, with wrinkles. With this particular type of photography I love freckles because they become really enhanced and strong. So the typical Irish, red hair and blue eyes with a lot of freckles looks the best. The image is really sensitive to blue, so the eyes come out very pure.
DT: The photography, or art, you do is very unusual. How and why did you start doing it?
AS: It’s a photographic technique from 1851. It consists of using an old Victorian camera. What I do is I take a piece of usually black glass, coat the glass with chemicals photosensitive. Then I put the glass at the back of the camera and take the shot, and then I develop the glass and the image comes onto the glass. So it’s kind of interesting because it’s a different process and all the images are unique. You can’t reproduce it, there are no negatives, so every single image is like a painting in a way , you can’t print 500 of them. That’s the appeal to it as well. One photograph takes about half an hour.
DT: I’ve never seen it before in any photography studio.
AS: No, you wouldn’t. I am the only one commercially doing it in Dublin. The chemicals I use can be deadly- I’m using cionide, so I have to use a mock respirator and everything!
DT: What do you think of the general art scene in Dublin?
AS: Since the recession it seems to have boomed. There is a lot of stuff going on in bars and restaurants; you see a lot of local artists exhibited everywhere, which is a great thing. All the places are working together to rotate artists, and hosting works and exhibitions. I don’t know if it’s people are getting back to their roots since the recession. During the boom era people were just blind sighted by money and the bling and they just didn’t pay attention. I feel things have gone back to what it was, to what Ireland’s all about. I mean Ireland’s always been about art, music and people.
DT: So do you think it is a good time to be a young artist in Dublin?
AS: Well, I guess being an artist is always a bit of a lottery. I’ve seen really average artists making it big, and then other people that struggle all their lives. Ireland is good because it’s quite a small place so it’s easy to get noticed. Some people just want to make their living off their art and not make millions, but there is such a huge degree of luck no matter what you want. What I found in Ireland when I was setting up the studio, that I was getting a lot of coverage. If you are doing something that’s worthwhile or interesting and different maybe, people will notice you. You have quite famous people living in Ireland, so you have more access to making that leap from struggling artist to being noticed. You just have to be relevant to the time that we’re living in then it’s definitely doable