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New Irish Works: Fallen Women
Emer Gillespie

Fallen Women, Emer Gillespie

Fallen Women, Emer Gillespie

Fallen Women
Emer Gillespie

Designed by Ángel Luis González Fernández


Edition of 200
32 pages
148 × 210 mm
ISBN 9780995701861


The severe and judgmental attitudes towards women who became pregnant outside of marriage permeated the ethos of virtually all Church and State agencies in 20th century Ireland. Church and State were bound in their conceptualisation of unmarried motherhood as degenerate and sinful. The tragic outcome of this is that generations of mothers and babies were forced apart.

As an unmarried mother at the age of 21 in the Ireland of 2002, Gillespie had the choice to keep her daughter. But in 1975, for her mother, then aged 20, there was no choice and she was forced to give her son up for adoption shortly after his birth. A similar story can be told of two more of her aunts, one as recently as 1985. Stirred by the secrecy and concealment of these events within her own family, and inspired by an emerging familial and societal consciousness of the experiences of unmarried mothers and their children, this project seeks to recognise, respect, listen to and hear from those women our society so entirely failed.

About the Artist
Gillespie is an Irish artist, currently living in Brighton in the UK. Graduating with an MA in Photography from the London College in Communication in 2009, her work is personal in nature, examining issues around motherhood, alternative family structures and the role that the subject and photographer play in creative collaborations. Gillespie’s most recent project, Fallen Women, is a personal and emotive look at forced adoption in Ireland in the 20th Century, inspired by her own experience as a single parent and my mothers and aunts experience of coerced adoptions in catholic controlled Ireland. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally including Love will tear us apart, Centre Photographic (Claremont-Ferrand, France), How One Thing Leads to Another, Critical Mass, Houston Centre for Photography, She loves me, she loves me not, Encontros da Imagem (Portugal), Family Narratives, RUA RED (Dublin), FFWE, Photographers Gallery (London), Altered States, Foley Gallery (New York), Shifting Perspectives, OXO tower, Southbank (London) and The Space Between at the V&A Museum of Childhood (London).
Most recently, Fallen Women was awarded a Solas Ireland award and was exhibited at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin in December 2015 and is about to be shown, as part of the award, in Gallery Fotohof in Salzburg from the 7th April. I am currently on maternity leave from working as a photography lecturer in the UK

About The Series
Selected by an international panel of 23 professionals, New Irish Works brings you a selection of 20 projects and 20 photographers representing the diverse range of practices coming from Ireland. New Irish Works 2016 is a year long project of 10 presentations and 20 publications that aims to highlight the great moment Irish Photography is experiencing.

About the Publisher 
Founded in 2009, PhotoIreland was conceived as an organisation that would stimulate a dialogue around Photography in Ireland by developing a varied array of initiatives and events with a strong participative approach.

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