Michael Fortune grew up in a family immersed in story, superstition and folk belief in an area known as ‘The Macamores’, an old Gaelic stronghold stretching along the east coast of County Wexford. He completed his BA in Fine Art, specialising in video and performance at Limerick School of Art and Design and his MA in Film and Screenwriting at Dún Laoghaire School of Film.

Working predominantly in film and photography, much of his practice revolves around the collection of material - material which he generates out of the relationships and experiences he develops with the people he encounters. The intimate nature of the relationships with the people and circumstances he encounters, and the subsequent reflective treatment of the material at hand, is a key feature of his work.Much of Fortune’s work borrows from the popular conventions of film, home video, snap photography and the printed media and his work can be seen as growing out of a tradition of social documentary and anthropological film. He combines the stand-alone idiosyncrasies of people and incidents in everyday life, with complex and visually careful and contemplative treatments that adeptly handle the aesthetics of repetition, humour, obscurity, strangeness and intimacy. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and bursaries for his work, which he presents extensively nationally and internationally in a variety of contexts, ranging from gallery exhibitions through to single screen presentations in film and video art festivals.

Due to the ethnographic nature of his practice I has been commissioned to undertake various folklore collections and traditional song research and performance projects throughout Ireland. These have been presented in a variety of spaces ranging from libraries and contemporary art spaces to village halls and handball alleys. He is a regular visitor to the Folklore Department in University College Cork and his collections are housed in numerous universities and libraries in North America and Europe. His ability to explore and celebrate the nuances of identity, place, ritual and story have been well demonstrated and are central to the success of such project work. He has championed the use of new media such as film, photography and web design since the late 1990’s and have produced a vast collection of material and content which has been presented in a variety of forms.

Video stills from ‘JFK’s Secret Landing’, short film, 2013, commissioned by Wexford County Council

Since 2008 he has been working with the National Library of Ireland on a series of traditional song research and performance projects in conjunction with Age and Opportunity, the Irish Traditional Music Archive, the Irish World Academy in Limerick and the Arts Council. Since 2013 he has produced a three-stage project, entitled ‘Man, Woman and Child’, a traditional song project based on the Child Ballad Collection, which explored Child Ballads within the Irish song tradition. (www.manwomanandchild.ie

In May 2015 he produced The Bird Song Project in conjunction with Aileen Lambert. Commissioned by Age and Opportunity for the Beataine 2015 Festival, this national song project saw them work in all four provinces with 33 older singers and 16 traditional singing circles on a themed performance and project based on traditional songs which reference or feature birds. During the course of this month, over 500 songs were song which referenced this theme. (www.thebirdsongproject.com)

In the same month, he also produced a new collection of folklore which was recorded from young people in the Adamstown area of Wexford, entitled My People, My Place. (www.mypeoplemyplace.com). Some of which has since been shown at film screenings nationally and will be presented in Collins Barracks later in the year as part of a project exhibition there.

Since September 2014 he has also produced a large body of place based research work in primary schools as part of his work as his work as a Heritage in Schools Expert. This project, The School Map Project, sees him work with primary school children, engaging, mapping and recording stories relating to places within the proximity of their schools . (www.schoolmapproject.com)


Video stills and Cover from ‘From Local Field’s to Here and Now’, selection of short films, 2012, commissioned by Wexford County Council

In June just gone, he also produced another collection of folklore and a body of films and documentaries from the Castletown area of North East of Wexford entitled Our Stories which was supported by Wexford County Council. Two of the documentaries produced were based on the life of local man, Liam Mellows while he is  currently producing  three new collections of folklore/local history in the villages of Taghmon, Kilmmuckridge and Fethard-on-sea. for Wexford County Council as part of project entitled About This Place. About this Place began in 2012 and involves a working with communities, in a process of field research, mapping, interviewing and visiting sites and in each area, and as a result of this embedded process, he has uncovered numerous untold stories and sites within each area. (www.aboutthisplace.ie).

Alongside this work he is currently beginning work on two 1916 traditional music and song projects for the 2016 Commemorations with his partner Aileen Lambert. The first, The 1916 Song Project is produced and supported by the Arts Council, the NLI, ITMA and local authorities in Wexford, Meath, Galway, DLR and Fingal where they are working with singers and academics researching and producing a new body of songs and material based around the 1916 Rising in each of those areas. (www.the1916songproject.com). The next project, Children of the Revolution,  which is supported by a various local authorities, see’s uthembring together actual traditional musicians with direct ancestral connections to people involved in the rising to produce a once off tour and concert series throughout Ireland.(www.childrenoftherevolution.ie)

Research and field trip photos from About This Place in Castlebridge Day Care in 2013 and in Blackwater Tidy Towns in 2014, commissioned by Wexford County Council

In September 2015, he also begin work on three other commissions for 1916, two of which have been commissioned by Carlow and Wexford County Councils, and through the medium of film, he will produce a body of films based on untold stories relating to the Rising in these counties.

In the same time he will work again with Aileen Lambert on another 1916 project, entitled Backroads to Rising which is a walking, place-based project where we will bring up to 30 communities together on a series of large scale walks in the footsteps of those involved in the Wexford Rising. The project will retrace the routes taken by those involved and will be synchronised to coincide with the main commemoration event in Enniscorthy, where all four routes will converge on the town on the morning of Easter Monday 2016. This too is supported by Wexford County Council.

They  recently got support from the Heritage council to undertake a mapping project in The Duffry in North West Wexford, the area in which they live. This project began in June and will involve recording stories and accounts relating to old routes and lanes which crisscross this ancient district of the county. In August this year, they presented a public walk as part of Heritage Week.  (www.theduffry.com)

Finally he is currently undertaking The Dresser Project with the support of The Museum of Country Life in Mayo and the Folklore Dept of UCC and four local authorities in Mayo, Tipperary, Carlow and Waterford. The project was launched in May 2015 and since then he has being producing a new body of work which features photos, films and stories relating to dressers from each county. The end result will be a public exhibition of the findings through a photographic show and website resource.

His most recent short film, An Obvious Jumo, which looks at the links between sean-nós dancing and tap dancing will be premiered at this years Indie Cork Film Festival in October 2015 and The Irish Liverpool Film Festival in the coming months. He continues to live and work from his studio in an area called The Duffry with his partner, artist and traditional singer, Aileen Lambert and their three young girls, Nellie, Eppie and Nan Dubh.

Jane Fortune (my grandmother) and her dresser in Wexford, 2012, commissioned by Waterford, Tipperary, Carlow and Mayo County Council’s



Michael Fortune   |   The Private : The Public : The Intangible