PORTLAND, Maine — When tourists around the world consider visiting Ireland, many of the warm, inviting and picturesque photographs they’ll see of the country will be the work of Portland’s Emily Delamater.
The photographer’s road to Dublin — and a central place in Ireland’s tourism promotions — started in March when she and her family members moved a couch. Outdoors. In a snowstorm.
“We had been talking, just a week before, about how someday we should take a European adventure,” Delamater recalled.
Delamater’s sister, Sarah Carter Hill, saw an advertisement on Facebook for an Irish-themed photography contest. The top prize was a trip for six to Ireland, and Hill pushed Delamater to give it a try.
“I thought, ‘Oh, nobody ever wins those things,’” said Delamater, a 29-year-old professional who photographs weddings and family portraits, among other jobs.
But she humored her sister and went along with it. She’s now glad she did.
Delamater, Hill, third sister Jessica Person and the women’s husbands decided to take a picture for the contest at a March family gathering, and Mother Nature threw them a curve.
“It was the last big nor’easter around St. Paddy’s Day,” Delamater recalled. “We decided to just bring the camera and figure something out.”
So husbands Matthew Delamater, Erik Person and Jesse Hill were given the duty of moving a vintage, green couch out into a nearby field. The whole group — dressed in green and L.L.Bean boots — piled onto the out-of-place furniture for a rolicking portrait, thinly evoking the famous Irish band The Cranberries and their two sofa-based album covers.
“We were pretty close to the deadline when we submitted it, and I think it was a week and a half or two weeks later when we received an email to say that we won,” Delamater said.
The three couples who were on the original green couch photo were flown to Ireland for the first week of July, with airfare and accommodations covered by Ireland tourism officials, who held the contest.
The Maine party flew into Shannon and took a modified U-shaped travel route — hitting Killarney, Cork, Kilkenny and Wicklow, among other locations — before settling in Dublin and flying home from there.
While she didn’t set out to work while on her vacation, Delamater did what any passionate photographer would and documented their trip visually.
“I feel like I speak a lot more clearly in images than I do in words,” Delamater said.
When the vacation was over, the photographer recalled, Irish tourism officials checked back in again and casually asked to see pictures of how the trip went. They were so impressed, they offered to purchase between 50 and 60 of the images to use in the country’s promotional materials, such as brochures, websites and magazine advertisements.
“They called me specifically to say, ‘We absolutely love the photos you sent us, and that they really embody all the things we love about our country.’ That was an amazing thing to hear,” Delamater said. “I’m not even from there, but this is a place where they live and a place that’s close to their heart. These were places that [tourists] visit and people know about, but they felt my photos captured those little spots that people don’t necessarily see or that were really personal. They said, ‘These really captured how it feels to be there.’
“That was the best compliment I could have ever asked for,” she continued. “I wasn’t going there with that in mind — I was just taking pictures, thinking, ‘These are the things I love about where I am.’”
It’s not the first time Delamater’s vacation photos have attracted attention. After a previous trip to New Orleans, she said, the luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton requested use of photos from the visit she’d posted on her blog for use in its promotional magazine.
If the Italy Department of Tourism is reading, Delamater said she’d be happy to take a vacation there next.
“I did a semester abroad there in early college, and I’d love to have an excuse to go back to Italy and eat the food and hang out with the people,” she said. “That would be great.”