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Uncovering the Inspiration Behind Daniel Holfeld's 'Blue' Image in the Irish Independent

Daniel Holfeld’s abstracted photographs of Ricardo Bofill’s building are pure escapism. Art: What Lies Beneath Daniel Holfeld creates a beautiful, geometric, calming work Niall MacMonagle Daniel Holfeld grew up in a bilingual household in Cabinteely. His father was a mechanical engineer, with “a very linear and practical perspective” and his mother “a bit of a dreamer who loved art and music, and was an avid photographer”.

He and siblings grew up in “an industrious family” and “were always encouraged to do things with our hands. My grandfather would gift us presents from Nimble Fingers in Stillorgan – small wooden assembly kits, painting kits, and we would build windmills or small toy cars.” For Holfeld, “cinema and films were a gateway for me, a form of escapism, a way to forget myself, something I think I do a lot in my own photography today”. Studying the Renaissance for Leaving Cert art, “ignited a deep love of beauty”. He “loved the larger-than-life imagery, the freedom of expression, the fluid gender roles men and women played during this time” and “I used to paint or recreate fashion advertisements I would see in magazines”. Post Leaving Cert, a portfolio course at Sallynoggin College, “really opened my eyes to a creative world”. There, he embraced life drawing, mixed media, metal work, photography and fine art. Then, at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, he knew he wanted to work with cameras and moved to working independently in the Gallery of Photography – and that led to a photography course at Dublin Institute of Technology: “A four-year academically driven and practically based photography course.” When his friends were all going to music festivals, Holfeld was in the dark room printing, and his “deeply personal” degree show featured “images from our family album which were taken when my parents lived in Killorglin. Inspired by [German photographer] Wolfgang Tillmans, the work explored archival images of a male archetype which I was beginning to question and unpack as a young man”.

“Shy and introverted” as a child, Holfeld “found great comfort in our close-knit family and inspiration in my grandparents’ weaving mill where, as a young boy, I became overwhelmed and intimidated by the cold factory, its lofty ceiling and loud machinery, and that marks the first moment a built space had an emotional effect on me”. Throughout college he would photograph that same space, then decommissioned and standing still. “Unknowingly, this is where I first started to play with geometry and abstraction. I would create close crop images of the delicate threads on the machines, which in hindsight was my way of unpacking and finding intimacy in an otherwise soulless space.” Holfeld has worked on fashion shoots, Morocco being a favourite destination, and for his UCD commission, Conveying Space, to mark Belfield 50, he traced how UCD's growth “reflects Ireland’s modern identity, Ireland’s growth, becoming more affluent, ambitious and confident”.

Now based in Dún Laoghaire, “with all the conflict surrounding us, I embrace escapism and the power neuroaesthetics has to help us feel safe and calm."

In this image, ‘Blue’, shot at La Muralla Roja, a postmodern apartment block, designed by Ricardo Bofill, in Manzanera, Spain, Holfeld, “using natural daylight and varying shades of blue from the natural fall of light within the courtyard steps”, captures not only his favourite colour but creates a beautiful, geometric, calming work.

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