© Jackie Nickerson
Jackie Nickerson, American, b.1960
Title: Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Poet, Playwright, Translator, Nobel Laureate
Date: 2007
Medium: Digital C-print
52 x 63 cm
Credit Line: Presented, Phoebe Matson and Tom Gurry, 2012
Object Number: NGI.2012.21
DescriptionThis photographic portrait records the warm, contemplative expression characteristic of the much-loved Irish poet Seamus Heaney. In 2007 Nickerson was commissioned by a British newspaper to take a photographic portrait of the poet for a feature article. After the formal sitting in his Dublin home, Heaney invited her into the kitchen for a cup of tea. Nickerson realised that she had an opportunity to take a striking, informal picture and asked permission to take another photograph, which resulted in this image. The fluorescent light glowing above Heaney’s head could refer to his revered status as a poet.
Jackie Nickerson makes photographs that examine the concept of identity and what it is to be human. Her images, which often portray people in their home or work environments, challenge conventional notions of portraiture. She engages closely with her subjects and the photographs which form part of series such as Farm (2002), Faith (2007) and Terrain (2013) testify to this. There is a meditative quality to her work, a feature tangible in this image. Nickerson’s photograph of Jerry Brown, the doctor who led the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, featured on the front page of Time Magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year issue.

March 2016
Label TextThis portrait records the benign, contemplative expression by which Seamus Heaney was widely known. The artist took the photograph after a more formal sitting, when Heaney invited her to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Returning to the table after a momentary absence, the poet presented Nickerson with the ‘opportunity for a great picture’. The light glowing above Heaney’s head hints at once at the enlightenment so evident in his writing and his revered status in Ireland and beyond.