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29th Apr 2020

‘Doortraits’ – How one photographer is bringing joy to Dubliners during Covid-19

James Fenton

I hear laughter as Katie Kavanagh picks up the phone. “Hello?” I begin, hoping I’m not interrupting. “Not at all,” she replies, “I’m just getting permission to take a picture of someone’s door here.”

“That’s funny,” I think to myself because that’s kind of what I was going to ask her about anyway. Katie’s Dublin 8 ‘Doortraits’ have been gaining a lot of attention in recent days, so much so that when I contacted her for an interview I was told I’ll have to wait because she was due to go live with Ray D’Arcy on RTE Radio One. Fair enough. When the day arrives that I front a Saturday night chat show for the national broadcaster I might be able to tell Ray to take a back seat. Until then, I’ll have to make do.

Katie tells me how it all started, saying “I was sitting on my sofa on a Saturday night drinking a glass of wine and I’d been thinking about taking pictures of my neighhourhood for a while. The doors are quite pretty. So I posted on Facebook to see if anyone wants their picture taken. One woman got back to me and she had doorknocked all the neighbours and suddenly everyone wanted their picture taken. But I was like ‘there’s 130 houses, how am I going to get through all of them?'”

As if that wasn’t enough, Katie continues: “On the Sunday, I went around to as many as I could and took some pictures and had some chats. Then on Sunday night, Donald Clarke who is the chief film correspondent at the Irish Times, tweeted about it and it kind of blew up.”

And so Doortraits was born. Katie tells me that the reaction has been amazing, although some older residents are wary when you knock on their door because of the fact they are currently cocooning. “They’d be like ‘who’s this weirdo?’ at first but after we chat for a few minutes they think ‘ah, she’s lovely.’ I try to limit my time with them because of the regulations but it can be hard to get away.”

A graphic designer and a wedding photographer by trade, work in the latter category has naturally dried up due to Covid-19. “I had a load of weddings lined up for May but they’ve all been pushed back to October, November or December,” Katie explains.

As well as bringing joy to her neighbours, Katie’s Doortaits project is also helping to raise money for Purple House Cancer Support Centre. The organisation offers support to families affected by cancer and it’s a cause that Katie feels close to, as she explains: “My sister has a nephew through marriage who passed away at the age of nine due to a brain tumour. I myself have a nephew who goes to Purple House for grief counselling.”

Katie invites people to donate via her GoFundMe page which can be found here.  As well as that, Purple House are asking people to take a Doortrait themselves and to donate €4 by texting PURPLE to 50300. You can also email your pic to [email protected] to be part of their gallery.

As for taking the project further afield, Katie would love to do so once lockdown restrictions are lifted. “I’d love to get over to places like Inchicore, Kilmainham and Pimlico because I know there are some die-hard Dubs living in these areas,” she says.

Each Doortraits photo that appears on Instagram is accompanied by a little description of its subject or subjects, allowing readers to really get to know who they are and how they’re coping with this unprecedented situation.

As well as chatting to some of Ireland’s most prominent journalists like Ray D’Arcy and myself, Katie has been speaking about Doortraits on Ireland AM on Virgin Media as word of her work spreads far and wide.

While she might not have any wedding gigs in the near future, there are still plenty more doors to be knocked on and laughs to be had around Dublin 8 and beyond. A wonderful use of time during the lockdown, I’m sure you’ll all agree.

If you want to check out more Doortraits, be sure to follow Katie on Instagram (@katiekavphoto) and Twitter (@kateikavanagh). You can also view her extensive range of wedding photography here. In case you missed it above, the GoFundMe page can be found here and your Doortrait photos can be emailed to Purple House at [email protected]. You can also donate €4 by texting PURPLE to 50300.

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