Posts Tagged ‘Snapshot Aesthethic’

On this beautiful sunny day, I thought that I would post two seaside related snapshots. This group of happy ladies were snapped in the early 1920s somewhere along the Eastern Irish coastline. I love their cloche swimming hats and the little child reaching precariously into the sea in above picture.

I have recently started to follow a blog devoted entirely to beach photographs: Swimming in pictures is based on Ian Phillips’ collection of vintage photographs of people in bathing costumes. It is interesting to note how similar, in both style and composition, beach snapshots were throughout the world.


The outfits worn by the ladies splashing about in the Irish sea are remarkably like those in a previous post of mine from another Irish 1920s album. Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums have a short little piece on bathing costumes from this period. Advertisements  from Selfridge’s and Sparkenhoe show the ideal beachwear styles of the 1920s and prove that the Irish swimmers were very much en trend.

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This image comes from a small snapshot album covering the mid 1930s to the end of World War Two. It starts with carefree photos of young people at various seaside towns in England and moves on to wartime shots of military hospitals and navy ports. The final image is of the gravestone of Frank William Holloway of the Derby Yeomanry, who died in Tunisia aged 25 on the 26th March 1943.

The middle of the album includes several photographs taken in Ireland when a group of men were on leave from the British Army. It typifies the playfulness of the snapshot and I love the abstract shapes created by the unusual positioning of the four friends as they look down at the camera.

The intersection of text and images adds to the page though I’ll probably never know who the ‘me’ captioned in the photo was! The repeated use of the same photographs is something I have encountered in many amateur albums and one wonders whether they were added as filler or to make a particular point within the narrative.

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Camogie didn’t look this good when I was reluctantly playing in the 1980s. I reckon this snapshot was taken around the 1920s or 1930s. The sister sport to hurling became officially recognised in 1904 and has prospered ever since. The medal on the young boy is in the typical neo-Celtic style used by the Gaelic Athletic Association. These ladies are pretty stylish with their beads, bobs and low-waisted dresses. The whole image is framed within the Irish countryside. The mountains can be made out faintly and the silhouetted trees provide a great backdrop. My sporting career was short-lived due to lack of ability and interest and I was more likely to have been the girl reading the book! 

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This snapshot is crammed full of amazing details like the sign for ‘private wine rooms upstairs’;  the young fella peaking over the odd little car;  the banner advertising Player’s cigarettes and the shadowy sign in the window. Despite my loathing of Arthur’s Day I am still fond of the ‘Guinness is good for you’ sign.

This photograph has me totally puzzled though as I cannot locate a Dublin pub whose street number is 32 and which is also next door to a stationer’s/tobacconist’s. The name of the shop looks like Hegarty and in the original print I can faintly make out a surname ending in ‘lly’ on the etched pub sign. I have checked one or two Thom’s Street directories for the 1920s, 30s and 40s but to no avail.

Perhaps the photograph wasn’t taken in Dublin which would disappoint me though it really shouldn’t matter as the image is a great snippet of street life wherever it originates. Any suggestions welcome?

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The subject matter of this photograph shows the playfulness of snapshot photography. The incidental details such as the wallpaper, worn chair and the doorway add to the overall ambience and the white flannel trousers are very typical of the 1920s.

The photograph was processed by Elite Portrait Studios, Rathmines, which was run by Max Stein for several years in the 1920s. In addition to photographic processing (using The Elite Process) he also offered camera rental! I like the simple stamp on the back of the photo – it contrasts with the ornate logos used by earlier studios.

The photographic trade was thought by many to be an easy way to make money but business didn’t go well for Max. A 1928 court report in The Irish Times shows that he owed £232 to Amalgamated Photographic Manufacturers (London) for photographic supplies obtained on credit. The business was registered in his Russian-born father’s name as Max was under twenty-one when he started the studio. His father Solomon, according to the article, was a rabbit skin-dealer at Britain Street, off Parnell Street.

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As a follow on from my last post I have put up another Irish cowboy. This snapshot shows my uncle in 1945 wearing a deluxe cowboy suit which was sent from a relative in Forth Worth, Texas! Hilary O’Kelly wrote about the clothing sent back by emigrants in the following article: ‘Parcels from America: American Clothes in Ireland c. 1930-1980’ in Old Clothes, New Looks; Second Hand Fashion, Berg (2005).

The photograph was taken in the yard of the family home at Haggard Street, Trim, County Meath. I remember visiting this place which had a variety of sheds, chicken coops and outhouses. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, these and the 18th century house were demolished to make way for new apartments which at the time of writing remain unoccupied. Another view of the yard is also shown in the banner for this blog. In this earlier photograph you can see St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland in the background. The Royal Irish Academy’s Historic Atlas provides a great visual overview of the town’s development. 

An exhibition which explored the snapshot within the American context – The Art of the American snapshot, 1880-1978 – was held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington in 2007. In his post on the accompanying book, Bernard Yenelouis, explores many of the issues surrounding the collection and exhibition of snapshots.

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This photograph is another great skip find and shows a ragged little young fella in the Phoenix Park, Dublin with the Wellington Monument in the background. The obelisk commemorates the Duke’s many military victories and dates from 1861. The centred figure typifies the snapshot aesthetic and the hat brings to mind the Western novels and films which were so popular in Ireland during the 1950s and 60s.

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