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To launch a publishing house far outside the publishing capital of Manhattan, Andrew Clarke needed, well, the luck of the Irish. Last October, Clarke, who emigrated from Roscommon, Ireland, 10 years ago, unveiled Atlantic Ireland, one of the District’s newest presses. From their Corcoran Street NW headquarters, Clarke and photographer James Gleason put together Atlantic Ireland’s first and only book, Contemplating Ireland, a collection of black-and-white images of the old country accompanied by stanzas by Irish poets including W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. Irish novelist Deirdre Purcell wrote the book’s introduction.
Atlantic Ireland released the book at a fête at the Irish Embassy, surrounded by professors from Georgetown University’s and Catholic University’s Irish Studies programs. “As a small publisher, getting attention is difficult,” admits Clarke. “It’s very tough to get going.” But Clarke has had some success: So far, he has persuaded home-and-garden retailer Smith & Hawken, as well as some national and independent bookstores, to stock Contemplating Ireland.
Clarke and Gleason set out to create a book that was more than the average coffee-table fodder. “There are a lot of gift books [about Ireland] out there that are very green and rather schmaltzy and very traditionallots of leprechauns,” says Clarke. “We wanted to do a gift book that was a little deeper.”
Clarke decided to publish a book of his own in 1998, when he saw his friend Gleason’s black-and-white slides of his Irish vacation. “Ireland usually doesn’t get shot in black and white because everybody wants to do green,” Clarke says. “This gives it a different dimension.”
Printing the book came easily, because Clarke is president of Asia Pacific Offset (which has one of its three national offices in the same building as Atlantic Ireland’s headquarters), a printing company that produces books for HarperCollins, Time-Life Books, and other large and small publishing houses.
Gleason, who is from Auburn, N.Y., has a background in black-and-white photography and has worked at custom labs, for fashion catalogs, and for NHL Web sites. Some of his photographs were included in the gift book The Art of Fine Cigars; others have been published in several newspapers, including the Washington Times. Gleason’s images of Ireland are currently on display in Arlington at Black & White, a custom photo lab.
For the book’s photographs, Gleason sought out moody Celtic cemeteries, moss-covered statues, and, of course, sheep, leaving no dolmen unturned. While he stalked Irish landscapes for the perfect light, Gleason also hunted for the perfect pint. “You’d think it’s really easy to pull those taps,” he says, “but it’s a science.” Margaret Foster
Publisher Andrew Clarke and photographer James Gleason will discuss Contemplating Ireland at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28, at Olsson’s in Arlington. For more information, call (703) 525-4227. For more information about Atlantic Ireland publishing, visit www.atlanticireland.com.