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Archive for the ‘Irish Studio Portraits’ Category

19th century studio photographers often used quirky props to put their customers at their ease, however, it didn’t always work! In an attempt to occupy the patron’s hands in a natural way, Lauder used a dome top bird cage. Robinson’s choice of a tennis racket is quite telling in that the sport was increasingly fashionable during this period.

Both of the girls photographed by the Dublin studios are, at my guess in their early teens. The outfit on the girl in the Lauder photograph is a better fit and not quite so over the top as the other’s. Both have their hair swept over their ears and tied at the back, however, unlike older women, their hair remains loose and flowing.

It was often remarked that the fashions of the day resembled furniture and in the example from Robinson this is definitely true. The girl’s dress has as many frills and flounces as the open tub armchair upon which she leans! The Lauder carte is by far the more superior in terms of its quality and composition.

Both studios had a long history in Dublin. Robinson & Sons of 65 Grafton Street were established in 1853 and claimed to be photographers to the British Army. Lauder Brothers were based at 22 Westmoreland street, opposite Carlisle Bridge (O’Connell Bridge).

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Sometimes regional studios throw up very unusual images, as these photographs from Galway and Limerick demonstrate. Although they display the usual studio props and formats, the sitters’ attire and demeanour make for atypical images.

The grandfather and grand-daughter taken by Walter Hopkins, 6 Eglinton Street, Galway, present a compelling image. The old man is definitely not used to having his photograph taken and one feels that this was probably his first time in a photographic studio. His rough homespun suit and stance are from an older Ireland. Perhaps he is from the islands or a worker on the docks? This man was probably born before the Famine and grew up in a very different world to the one in which the young girl will live.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Hopkins and he appears to have practised in the last few decades of the 19th century. He is credited with taking a portrait of the writer, Pádraic Ó Conaire, in the 1890s. I reckon that the photograph above pre-dates this as its logo and card are more crudely executed than on the Ó Conaire picture.

The Limerick carte-de-visite, shows a mother and her four daughters in their finery. The matching hats, skirts and fringed shawls are quite over the top. Their faces look gaunt and drawn and you can definitely see the family similarity. I also love any sort of cheesy studio prop and this fake garden arch is great if somewhat obscured by the five women who are crammed into the photograph. I reckon that the tilted forward hats date the photograph to the early 1870s.

Limerick-born Thomas Bernard ran his photographic studio for at least five decades from the 1870s to the 1910s, after which, I cannot find any record of him. Even though he had ten children it appears that none of them wanted to become photographers!

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