Irish photographer Jason Mcgroarty is always striving for an element of the unexpected in his images. You might say he would rather that his work jolts you in a manner that would push you to think; rather than just present an aesthetically pleasing picture. That is exactly what he achieves in his series Totem.
The internet defines a totem as “a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, group, lineage, or tribe, reminding them of their ancestry (or mythic past).” Mcgroarty’s Totem project blends such animal symbolisms with stunning black and white visuals of typical urban places. These images according to Mcgroarty represent his transformation from a boy into a young man and the many forgotten experiences along that Journey.
Mcgroarty has a background growing up with a strong influence from his mother’s spirituality. She inculcated in him a sensitivity to life, with an awareness that events may not always manifest their meanings at first. He tries to replicate such experiences with Totem. For instance he recalls a chance encounter with a fox.
“I will always remember the moment that I came into contact with a wild fox when walking a dimly lit street on the outskirts of my hometown. Through project Totem I want to replicate that heart stopping moment when you come into contact with a wild animal in an unexpected location, when the wild breaches the barriers of the big city it reminds us that we are not as safe as we like to think, that the unexpected should be expected.”
Mcgroarty endeavors to express his awareness of deeper meaning inherent in what would seem to others as just ordinary, mundane occurrences. He does achieve that with Totem, with images like an owl in a library or two rabbits roughing it up in a church otherwise empty, except for a solitary man. It is very engaging photography, lending itself to open interpretation. Then again, Mcgroarty has indicated that these are very personal, intimate experiences and he is trying to grasp, clutch at. For that alone Totem is definitely well worth the time see and experience.