Photographer and filmmaker Ross O'Callaghan.

Paddy Irishman goes to New York City

A Corkman is part of a very special photography project that is to open in New York City outside Grand Central Station ahead of St Patrick’s Day.

A portrait of Fota groundsman Paddy O’Reilly features in a series of portraits of Irishmen named Paddy, Pat, Padraig, Patrick, or any variation of the name by Irish photographer and filmmaker Ross O'Callaghan.

Paddy O'Reilly - Paddy the Fixer at Fota. Photo: Ross O’Callaghan

The original photo project seeking Paddys was launched on St Patrick’s Day 2021. The Paddy Irishman Project asked those interested and willing to be photographed to get in touch and share their stories.

The aim was to showcase the diversity of the contemporary Irish male and challenge the global stereotype of the ‘Irish Paddy’ through a stunning collection of portrait photographs.

Now three years and more than a thousand applicants later, Ross and the creative team at the Brill Building, led by creative director Roisin Keown, are set to open an ambitious large scale public exhibition introducing 50 Irish Paddies in the heart of New York City, ahead of St Patrick’s Day 2023.

The series tells the story of a remarkable intergenerational cross-section of Irish men and promotes a new narrative of contemporary Ireland. It challenges the idea that there’s any such thing as a typical Paddy and asks us to question our own assumptions around what it means to be Irish and male today.

The interactive installation at Pershing Square outside Manhattan’s Grand Central Station will feature Paddies from all walks of life including comedian Patrick Kielty; professional golfer Padraig Harrington; Hollywood film director Paddy Breathnach; award winning architect and TV personality Paddy Bradley; Nigerian born actor Patrick Martins; Ireland’s strongest man Paddy (Pa) O’Dwyer and Ugandan-born traditional musician Paddy Hazelton. It also features miscarriage-of-justice survivors Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, and Patrick Maguire of the Maguire Seven.

His week-long public multi-media installation which also features audio interviews, seeks to share the Paddy Irishman stories with as many as possible, including the 2 million people expected to attend the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade.

The ambitious first-of-its-kind not for profit project launched in New York on 14 March.

The touring Paddy Irishman Photography Project will later be showcased in the New York Irish Centre in Queens for one week from 12 to 19 April.

Ross O’Callaghan, a photographer and award-winning cinematographer in film and television film, is best known in Ireland as TV presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin’s right-hand man behind the lens, on the TG4 travel series ‘Hector san…’ He has filmed in over 100 countries, on all continents, making commercials, documentaries, sports, reality and lifestyle programming for many channels amassing awards along the way.

Ross said: “I tell the true story of the Irish male experience in contemporary Ireland - not the stereotype - through personal stories and lived history across several generations of Paddies, looking at how much has changed and the values have stayed the same.”

Paddy Smyth, an Irish activist with cerebral palsy, who won the second series of ‘The Circle’ on Channel 4 TV, said: “When you hear the word Paddy abroad you don’t think of an Irish disability activist who’s gay, so I love Ross’s vision for this project. I’m Paddy many things, and modern Ireland is diverse. The word Paddy and Irish men in general abroad have a certain stereotype… and it’s about time someone challenged that.”

Uganda born trad musician and bodhran player, Paddy Hazleton said: “I’m not your typical Irish Paddy. The places Irish music has taken me – all over the world - the people I’ve seen and friends I’ve made have stood to me. I’ve been lucky to have been blessed with a rhythmic gift, since my Mum got me involved with Irish music. I’m very proud to be a Ugandan-Paddy Irishman.”