In 1988 I was once again asked by the H.J. Heinz company to photograph more of their most senior management at various locations around the world, but this time I was going to start my sojourn in Ireland, photographing Tony O’Reilly at his home Castlemartin in Kilcullen, Ireland.
Terry, my friend, my assistant, and my confidant, and I traveled first class one spring day on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.
As we settled back into our seats and began to quench our thirst with Irish beer, I already began to feel the need to dance a small Irish Jig to celebrate my newborn success at photographing the world’s CEOs.
The New York Times had done a front page business story on the photographs I had shot for Heinz the previous year, and new work was slowly beginning to come my way.
I was transitioning to a corporate world of the late 1980s. America felt strong, even boastful and powerful and you felt this in the advertising, and in a lot of the communications. Design and Advertising took risks that have not reappeared since. Money was to be found in global expansion, and the world felt full of opportunity. Everyone seemed to be running in every direction. Money didn’t seem to be the obstacle to most adventures as it does today. It was the best of times and it was the worst.
Against this background I began to have new adventures. I went from being penniless to making a nice living to ultimately as years went on to being quite successful.
I began this manic high with a new found energy, enthusiasm, and even my humor seemed to return. I finally felt I was wanted, even desired, and most importantly appreciated.
As the plane touched down one spring morning in Dublin, Terry and I were met by Dr. O’Reilly’s chauffeur, Arthur Whelan, better known as “Wheels”.
In a shiny black Rolls Royce we raced through the Irish countryside approaching 100 miles per hour with Terry, and I holding onto our seats in a desperate attempt to stay upright as we made our way through hedgerow after hedgerow of beautiful Irish countryside.
Wheels loved speed. It was as if “Odd Job” had been recreated in an Irish gentleman. He looked the part in his perfectly tailored hat, and charcoal grey suit. Just what you would have expected.
We reached our destination at Castlemartin, and after making our way down the long circuitous driveway, I saw a large tent being installed for the evening’s festivities.
We were greeted by the staff, and Mrs. O’Reilly, and went into the living room, and met Tony O’Reilly once again. Without blinking he said welcome Roddy, and said to me “The pictures can wait.” Tonight I want you to join the party, and tomorrow I want you to go with me to some friends for lunch, and then on to Dublin for a rugby match.
At the party there were dignitaries, Irish royalty, cabinet members, Irish movie stars, and food. I remember meeting a beautiful young Irish woman who trained horses for Dr. O’Reilly. She invited me to come to Tipperary after the shoot, but time was limited, and afterwards I was off to Mexico.
So the weekend went on from one festivity to another an I felt honored to be included, but still I couldn’t seem to get a few hours alone with him. He was definitely the man everyone wanted to be around.
Finally, as I was watching one of the trainers bring a horse around the front of the house from the stables, I saw the picture.
I ran inside the house, brazenly interrupted his conversation, and begged for just a few minutes. I grabbed a chair from the house and placed it in his front yard, a mere few hundred acres of fields, and asked him to sit. In typical O’Reilly fashion he stared me down like I was the competition in a rugby match. I tell him this, and he smiles, and says “I like it.” So do I, and I quickly take a few frames, and over time he grants me the time I need, and I take other pictures. But in the end this is the one I like the best, a man sitting peacefully in his front suburban yard.
So life continued at this pace for a number of years, and I slowly learned the ways, and means of many of the world’s CEOs. Some I liked, some I loved, and some I detested, but for the most part I found them extremely interesting, complex, and somewhat misunderstood. Terry and I had fun, and great adventures, but in the late 90’s it all came to an end as I began to transition to doing other work.
Slowly, as time meandered it’s way through the late eighties and nineties, I was allowed many opportunities to get closer to these men, and have a chance to understand them more. I think without realizing it though, I was also finding a way to get closer to the one man who I needed to understand the most, my father.