Enda Burke is a photographer based in Galway. He studied film production and photography in Galway and Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Enda’s work has been featured in many publications including The Guardian, Rolling Stone Magazine, Forbes Magazine and The Observer . He also gave a TED talk on creativity.
Enda’s work has been recently shortlisted for the Sony World Photo awards ,The Zurich Portrait award and Saatchi Art Visions of the Future .Recent Awards include the international Bartur Photo Prize, Profifoto “best of new Talent award” 2022 and Lens Culture Home 21’.
Enda’s practice entails building elaborate sets filled with props from everyday life and with narratives played out by his family and friends . His work is saturated with vivid neon colours and it is nostalgic, kitch and humorous.
He is drawn to the “strange monotony associated with home life, exploring humour, nostalgia, kitsch design and colour. I am interesting in portraying how small transient details of colour and play can become marvels in monotonous settings.”
Why he loves photography
‘I just like the idea of walking around with a camera and collecting little slices of reality to take home with me.’
Accessibility of photography
Enda has recently started teaching workshops with Outset Gallery in Galway. He thinks photography is accessible for everyone.
“photography is one of the most accessible art forms… In drawing, you have to do drawing classes. In photography, you just have to pick up the camera and it’s portable.”
Although he initially studied filmmaking he prefers the freedom of photography.
“The great thing about photography..you don’t have to worry about what happens before or after the scene”.
Film allows for a narrative to unravel whereas photography captures a moment in time
“[the] strong and weak point in photography is [that it is] limited…you can kind of explore limitations. You can add a bit of mystery.. you don’t know what’s going to happen next, what’s happened before. You just have this slice snapshot of what’s going on in the scene.”
The importance of his sketchbook
Enda uses his sketchbook for inspiration and research
“I do a lot of research before and I have ideas and I keep notes of my ideas and I print stuff out and I glue them into sketchbook.”
“I love writing about photography. I love writing about art. I write about other photographers. I love in my sketchbook, and I’ll print out their stuff and glue it in. I find that really enjoyable. It’s very helpful to my practice as well.”
He takes inspiration from what people wear, what he sees around him, from film and American photography and Americana. “I get a lot of inspiration from just stuff I see on the street… my friend Theodore actually was wearing these really interesting colours.. I ended up using those two colours in a set together.”
“I get influence from film.”
“American photography has been a huge influence on me.”
“I love the whole Americana as well. Americana design and interior.”
Enda’s favourite photographers are William Eggleston, Gregory Crewsson and Alex Prager.
He would love to have met David Lynch.
The importance of travel
Enda benefited hugely from his time in Vancouver, learning one-on-one and exposure to the Candian photography scene there
“going abroad and doing that was the best thing that ever happened to my practice”
“if anyone’s thinking anyone out there who’s in college and thinking doing Erasmus or anyone even thinking of doing a residency abroad, I’d really recommend it as a kind of a shake up of your practice”
The importance of perseverance and self-belief
“I’ve been doing photography for ten years. It’s big grind. Keep just keep doing it. Keep doing it. I did it for eight years without getting anywhere, and I just feel like it’s keep grinding away. Keep doing it. Keep your mind open would be my main advice.”
How COVID led him to change direction
Enda worked as a street photography for ten years. The lockdown during COVID forced him to pivot. He began building elaborate sets and creating humorous narratives about life during lockdown with his parents as protagonists.
“I kind of had to get creative during lockdown to figure out how can I still do what I love”
“I had to bring the world into my house rather than go out and explore in the world is how I described how I got into set design during COVID lockdown”
Enda’s sets are filled with colourful details and retro imagery. He ordered materials online and spent a long time researching to find the perfect props, wallpaper and and imagery for his sets. “I’ll find twenty interesting images and then I’ll get them printed and I’ll go through them all and it’s kind of like X Factor. I narrowed them all down, which one works? And eventually I’ll get down to one, the one that works. Then I’ll include it in the set.”
“I might look at a room and stare at it for a while and see what could be done with it.”
“I don’t enjoy the wallpaper, and to be honest, it’s very tedious and it’s just a pain, to be honest. I do love picking colours and I get joy out of the props and all that stuff. I do love it and all it comes together”
The research, preparation and set building was the longest part of the process and the end result of the photograph took minutes. “The easiest part to the whole thing is a photo shoot..that’s kind of the last thing on my mind.”
Enda’s work uses distinctive neon bright colours. “Someone approached me on the street.. and said, you dress like your photograph. It’s a good compliment..I have always loved colour”. He manipulates the colours “in post editing, I do a lot of pushing and pulling”
He frequently used religious imagery in the background. “I saw them everywhere.. I didn’t fully understand them. ..they were ubiquitous in Ireland a long time ago.” Enda views them as beautiful colourful props and is neutral to any religious symbolism. “Some of them are quite beautiful, though, the colours, especially some of the Virgin Mary ones.”
Using family and friends as protagonists made the photoshoots very relaxed and casual.
“it works because it’s casual. I think there’s no pressure.”
“it’s much more enjoyable and free flowing when it’s a friend or a family member.”
Enda used his rescue dog Bobo in several photos.
“The dog has to be bribed with hot dogs and mackerel!”
Allowing ‘happy accidents’
Although Enda can spend weeks researching and building a set, he is flexible enough to abandon it during the photoshoot if he feels it isn’t working. “If I’m doing exterior shots, I’ll spend a week or two planning it, then I’ll plan it and we’ll get to this place and then I’ll see something else will catch my eye and we move away.” For the portrait of his friend which was shortlisted for the Zurich portrait prize, he used his parent’s living room and the natural daylight instead of the set he had built.
“it’s a bit of a grind. It’s probably, I’d say, about 60% admin work, 40% actually making work. ..Whereas when I was doing street photography, it was about 100% just out photographing.”
Enda spends a lot of time entering submissions
“I do a lot of submitting. It’s good to have that in your practice. ..it gives you ..affirmation to make more work.”
“I follow a few portals that will send me newsletters of open calls, which I read religiously.”
He uses specific hashtags on instagram such as ‘Shoot Film, stay Broke’ which have sometimes shared his work which subsequently caught the eye of editors.
Enda’s everyday camera is a Fujifilm CFX50R Digital camera. “I’d saved for a year, at least. I was almost homeless after buying that. I loved using it. It’s a workhorse, I do all my work with it. It’s digital. I find with digital, you can take more shots with it, and so you have more to choose from.”
“I like digital…it’s quick, it’s easy… after the shoot, I can stick it in my laptop and start editing it straight away.”
However for portrait work, Enda prefers his Hasselblad 501cm medium format film camera although it is expensive to use. “it slows you down, it makes you think more. It’s like you can’t fire off a shot after shot after shot, because you only have, like, 14 shots.”
the photo is the end result
“it’s not really about the process or what camera the person used, or if they’ve used an iPhone..It’s more about the end photograph for me…you have to do to get a good image.”
“Always shoot from Raw”
“when you’re shooting in Raw, it doesn’t compress the files and it doesn’t put any filters over it. Whereas when you shoot in, non-Raw JPEG, it’s compressed, the resolution is made smaller. Editing in Raw, you can do so much more, you can bring the colours out more, it’s just a lot more to work with.”
Enda has a solo show later this year where he is planning to build an installation of a set. He is also exhibiting in the RHA Annual Exhibition and the Sony World Photo Awards exhibition in Somerset House.
You can find Enda on Instagram @enda35nn and www.endaburke.com