Born in Waterford, Carmel studied photography at the Crawford College of Art & Design in Cork. Since graduating in 1990 she has received many awards including Photographer of the year in her graduating class.
She is the first ever photographer to win the prestigious Alice Berger Hammerschlag Travel Award which she used for a photographic tour of Utah & Arizona. Her other numerous awards include Arts Council Bursaries, Travel awards & Exhibition assistance funding.
She has taken part in many Symposia & residencies including both “Irish Days” Symposia in Ustka, Poland, Crossroads Symposium in Ireland along with 2 residencies at the prestigious Tyrone Guthrie Centre.
Over the years her work has featured in many leading Irish Open group exhibitions including EV+A, Iontas, Signals & the Claremorris Open exhibition and she curated several touring exhibitions throughout Irish galleries & Arts Centres. Her work also represented Ireland at the Irish Days Lieteraturwerkstatt in Berlin, at the Gothenburg Irish Festival in Sweden and at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia.
Her Public Art Commissions include Tralee IT, Bunclody Fire Station, New Ross Garda station and the Mater Hospital Belfast.
Nature fascinates and inspires me. Rock, which appears solid and immobile, is shaped and softened as water insistently carves a pathway for itself. Boundaries are overstepped. As I photograph nature it is framed by my interpretation and echoes human sensuality.
“The photographs that make up Carmel Cleary’s exhibition ‘Passage’ are beautiful be any standard. They follow the winding curves of the deep, narrow Antelope Canyon in Arizona.
In some of Cleary’s earlier work she photographed stone in a way that suggested the sensuality and pliancy of flesh. And that association comes through here as well. In some images the opposing canyon walls are like bodies engaged in an intricate dance. The similarity is there, and undoubtedly helps to draw us into the images, but it is never forced or contrived.” Aidan Dunne, Irish Times
"Cleary's photographs, all taken in one small cove in Co Waterford, imbue water-worn stone with the softness of flesh. The patterns of fissures and joins recall details of the human body. They make beautiful images." Aidan Dunne, Sunday Tribune