Cole Flynn Quirke memorialises the particular formative years of his early-20s

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Quirke’s latest project marks his departure in the carefree years of early adulthood

In literature, TV, and film, coming-of-age is commonly associated with the late-teens, and the growth that is experienced in this transition through childhood to adulthood. But rarely do we learn about the formative years that follow. “I felt like I was such as the same person up until I had been about 19, ” states 25-year-old photographer Cole Flynn Quirke . “Then, something clicked. Everything I stand by, I think I have learned in the past four or five years. ” 

There are a different group of responsibilities, and anxieties, which usually arrive with your early-20s. “I know I’m still therefore young, but in the past 5 years, so much has changed, ” says Quirke, “you’re subjected to so many things that start to terrify you a bit. ” Leaving home, or formal education; dealing with sudden expectations to get a “proper” job; becoming aware of the vulnerability in your parents, that you never realised as a child.  

Quirke’s latest project, Even a Maniac Can Learn to Drive, is ongoing. It follows on from his earlier body of work, A Bird Flies Backwards , which is similarly autobiographical, plus explores Quirke’s experience of companionship, love, and loss. But while this previous work chatted about the experience of coming to terms with change, Even A Maniac Can Learn to Drive much more reflective. Quirke describes it as “a swan tune to the age of no or very little responsibility… a sketchbook memorialising the wild, great and intimate first 5 years of my twenties”.

“The task is about uncertainty of time and growth. The notions this observes are about maturation and the fading of innocence”

“Originally, it was going to be called The particular Wishing Well … but I needed to come up with something a little bit more boisterous, uproarious, ” he laughs. “One night, a friend and I were walking home quite past due, and this driver came accelerating the road, swerving everywhere. He nearly hit me and my friend, and I went, ‘ah, even a maniac can learn how to drive’. ” This concept that “anyone can do anything” resonated with the transition that Quirke experienced. “The project is all about the uncertainty of time plus growth, ” he describes. “The notions it observes are about maturity and the fading of innocence… It is a project that emulates an individual reflective nostalgia. ” 

Digital photography and memory are intrinsically intertwined, and, for Quirke, the medium of collage is integral to talking about his experiences. “It’s like a tool for me to decipher things that I’ve encountered in life, and how they’ve affected me, ” says Quirke, who has been scrapbooking since he was 16. “I couldn’t be bothered to glue stuff in, so I’d just stick masking tape about it. At the time I thought this looked grubby, but it created, and I’ve never worked in any other way. ”

Cut-and-pasted or stitched jointly, a reckless, youthful power imbues Quirke’s work. “A lot of my imagery is pretty dark, but there is also a spontaneity, ” he reflects. Given that lockdown, unable to visit exhibitions, Quirke has found themselves inspired by album covers. He refers to the cover of V3’s 1996 album, Photograph Burns , on which a naked woman hangs up laundry as a fire rages in the back of her yard. “That photo encapsulates the idea that a photograph can be quite gnarly, but also possess a silliness to it. ”

However , alongside this audacity and humour, a tenderness ripples through the work. A deceased mouse, delicately resting within a friend’s palms; a naked body, curled up on a bed; a couple kissing in front of the police van. “A great deal of it’s metaphorical, and people may take their own feelings from it, ” he says. “It’s just me personally purely as an observer… I am just trying to represent truthfully what I’m seeing close to me. ”

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Pictures in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She examined English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MOTHER in Magazine Journalism through City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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