Pretty City Dublin: Discovering Dublin’s Beautiful Places
by Siobhan Ferguson | History Press | 224pp| HB £25 | 9780750990714
Review by Laura King
Pretty City Dublin is a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf, coffee table or Christmas present. The look and feel of the book are so special, down to such details as the cute printed endpapers and luxurious-feeling finish to the pages. The book not only makes the reader feel like they are strolling through the city on a beautiful sunny day, giving recommendations for things to do and places to eat and drink, it also gives tips as to how to take your own beautiful ‘Pretty City’ photo, to share under their hashtag on Instagram. All you need, Siobhan writes, is your smartphone, a little patience, and a willingness to chase the light.
Last weekend, after pouring over the book, I walked around Dublin, trying to see it through this ‘Pretty City’ lens. Instead of walking directly to St Stephen’s Green from Trinity College, I meandered down side streets and took my time looking up at how the light hit buildings and illuminated the various streets in different ways, and how fresh the city looked from a fall of rain the night before. I noticed such beautiful details that I had forgotten about or never noticed, because I never just walk around the city and admire it, I’m always in a rush somewhere. By taking a different, indirect route to my destination I remembered places I hadn’t visited in years, and really enjoyed the memories they conjured up. Because I took longer to walk from street to street, I even ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in several months, who I wouldn’t have come across if I had just hurried down Grafton Street as usual.
While I’m no photographer (as evidenced by my own social media channels), it was a really rewarding experience seeing the city anew. Like many people, I have been confined to staying in Dublin for much of this year, when travel outside your locality has been discouraged. Walking around the city felt different this weekend, as I paused to admire so many gorgeous buildings that I take for granted, and it made me so excited to visit my favourite shops, pubs and restaurants once they reopen. I’m so grateful to the book for reminding me of why I choose to live in Dublin, and why it wasn’t a bad place to be confined to this year. The author herself lived in Dublin on and off for several years, and explained that she only really noticed what a pretty city, so to speak, it was when she started photographing all the details as she would have in other cities she visited and lived in, which was something I definitely have learned from.
This could make a really thoughtful present, conversely, for someone who is missing Dublin—if they live in Ireland and just haven’t been able to visit lately; if they are Irish and living abroad and missing home; or if they are someone who just loves Dublin and wants to get to know the city, and could feel like they are travelling through the book’s photos, if they can’t in person. Siobhan also makes photography accessible and fun for anyone to enjoy.
While people sometimes dismiss taking photos on smartphones and uploading to Instagram as something just anyone can do, the Pretty City books show how this is an art form that everyone can and should be able to have fun with, and encourage everyone to explore their surroundings with a photographer’s eye and notice just how lucky they are to live or visit somewhere so beautiful as Dublin.
Laura King works in publishing in Dublin, and in her spare time reviews books online under the name @lauraeatsbooks