Caitriona Dunnett

Churches in Ireland were built around the country following Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and with them grew networks of mass paths. For decades parishioners from outlying homes journeyed across fields to celebrate mass. A Well Trodden Path, explores the heritage of mass paths in the townland of Lackagh in Co Galway. A web of 15 mass paths was mapped out. Fragments of old tracks, stiles and footbridges were pieced together with the recollections of older parishioners. 
Mass paths cut across farmland. They were respected and never ploughed. Routes were shaped depending on the condition of the land and largely ran alongside bushes and walls for shelter. The paths were walked in all weathers. A parishioner recalled taking the path with her sister and friends. It took about 2 hours. She wore her old raincoat and shoes. Across her arm she carried her good clothes to change into, after mass she changed back.

Dunnett photographed traces of these paths. Each had their own traits, beautiful pink and purple grasses, a tunnel of trees illuminating a trail of nettles and big dramatic skies highlighting ancient details. She converted her photographs into contact negatives creating and then toning cyanotypes with a leading brand of Irish tea, a favourite of many who walked the paths. Dunnett layers her work. She is drawn to this process and how it relates to the years of footfall across the fields and the many stories attached. 
Walkers rarely used the stile on the Lachagh Road. The lady who lived beside it used to leave her cottage doors open, mass goers would stroll across her kitchen to the church opposite. The landscape and its people have greatly changed, since these paths were last walked.