Archive for the ‘Hand-coloured Photographs’ Category


This bizarre object is evidence of heavy-handed colouring carried out to such an extent that the original photograph is almost totally obscured. The cartouche on the back of the carte-de-visite reads ‘Truth and Light’ – a popular motto for photographers – although in this case the ‘truthfulness’ of the image may have been somewhat lost.

The upholstered leather chair is just about visible in the background. The child’s hair resembles a mohican style with the sides brushed or gelled back and the curls piled up on top. His/Her face has been deliberately scored or scratched which is a pity, however, the expression can still be made out.


The photograph was taken by Edmund G. Ganly (1843-1930), who announced the opening of his business in The Irish Times on the 3rd of October 1868 as follows:

“Important photographic notice – Mr. Edmund G. Ganly. Late principal photographer to Mr. J. Simonton, 70 Grafton Street, Begs respectfully to announce to the nobility, gentry and the inhabitants of Dublin and its vicinity, that he has opened the studio, 43 Grafton Street. N.B. 10 doors from Stephen’s Green. ”

The Simonton studio mentioned above features in some of my earlier blog posts and was also known as The Royal Panopticon of Science and Art. By 1888 Ganly had moved to London and was to continue in the photographic trade for many years.

On another note, I am delighted to be speaking at a conference in Dublin next week: ‘Object Matters: the material and visual culture of the Easter Rising’ is taking place at the Civic Offices next Friday and Saturday, 26th and 27th of April. The full programme is available here.


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This beautiful carte-de-visite was produced by Callaghan, 45 South Mall, Cork ca. 1870. The photographer first appears in the 1867 General Directory of Cork published by Henry & Coghlan. He is listed again in Slater’s Directory for 1870, in Fulton’s City Directory for 1871 and Guy’s Directory for 1875. Indeed, the directories are confusing in that some years he is listed as Timothy or T.J. O’Callaghan and in others as Callaghan without the ‘O’.

I was delighted to come across a reference to the photographer in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society from 1936. The title of the article Timothy O’Callaghan, a Cork lithographer, who printed the prayer book in Irish written by Pól Ó Longán promised much, however, when I called it up in the National Library of Ireland it was only a small note asking the readers if they knew anything about O’Callaghan!


I love hand-coloured photographs and wonder if this one was painted in the studio or at home by an amateur? During this period, hand-tinting photographs was a popular hobby and tips were given in women’s magazines and journals. In 1871 the Queen’s Institute for the Training and Employment of Educated Women in Molesworth Street, Dublin offered instruction in the hand-tinting of photographs. This course was taken up by young ‘gentlewomen’ hoping to secure a job with one of the many photographers in the city. I like the fact that the painter has highlighted, in blue, only the small detail of the ribbon tying the girl’s hair.

The young girl is wearing a loose-fitting paletot jacket piped with braid. The dropped shoulder sleeves are loose and the collar is in a Mandarian style. The three-buttoned jacket is worn with a wide skirt made from a rough woollen material. The painted backdrop depicts a terrace looking out on a typical pastoral scene. The studio accessories include a lustre wear vase and a small book which is held by the girl as a prop.

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This hand-tinted photograph is most likely from the 1920s. The colouring is really well executed and was undertaken by the Octova Studios, 52 South King Street, Dublin. The studio specialised in theatrical and artistic portraits and was located beside the Gaiety Theatre in a building which now houses a joke shop called Funny Place!  

Mr. K. Raphael Wall was the proprietor and he offered paintings, plaster casts and photographic portraits from 1/- to £100. A notice placed in The Irish Times on Saturday 6th December 1924 stated that Mr. Wall was to deliver a lecture on portrait painting to art students on the following Monday. One wonders if the sitter was a young art student or an actress from the nearby theatre?

The  studio was still in business in 1932 but isn’t mentioned in any of the city newspapers again until 1936 when a Miss Kathleen Wall (late of Octova Galleries) opened the Raphael Gallery around the corner on Grafton Street.

There are some excellent examples of hand coloured photographs on John Foster’s blog Accidental Mysteries and the collection of found and vernacular photographs which he shares with Teenuh Foster is equally interesting. It is featured on their site which also contains links to other vernacular and found photograph sites.

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