Isaac Kirby: Dirt Road

The story covers the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela network of pilgrims’ ways that lead to the shrine of St. James the Great in Northern Spain. It’s a personal account of the photographer’s journey which lasted over 1000km throughout the spiritual passage.

© Isaac Kirby | Dirt Road
© Isaac Kirby | Dirt Road

Santiago de Compostela is often visited by people in search for awakening or self-discovery. It’s not necessarily to do with religion, i.e. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc., but it’s rather more concerned with our inner sense of being. It’s a right of passage attracting diverse people with multiple reasons for doing so — addicts, divorcees, students on a gap year, newly retired and many others. Kirby was also interested in the way people on the road use language — many would be atheists or non-secular but would use phrases that are commonly associated with God or the divine spirit, for example, “Santiago de Compostela will show me the way”. The place is seen as a simple solution to a particular problem depends on the individual, almost in a one glove fits all manner. Whatever your ailment is, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, Camino de Santiago de Compostela stands a high chance of being the solution, or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be.

© Isaac Kirby | Dirt Road
© Isaac Kirby | Dirt Road

The project ultimately came to reflect the “emotions of the landscapes and the people that the route traverses rather than an investigation into the lives of those living there.” Kirby believes that the body of work attempts to capture an honest depiction of the spirit of the journey, away from its commercial facade and transient population. Before the pandemic put an abrupt hold to it, global travel has become more easily accessible and affordable than ever, making it easy for people from across the globe to get to Santiago. However, people are less religious now than they have ever been with the advances of science and technology — many more aspects of life and the world can now be explained with modern physics and chemistry, therefore the need for religion is diminishing. Why do so many still find it tempting to visit this site in Northern Spain associated with divinity and spirituality?

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