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Posts Tagged ‘Street Photography Dublin’

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Just a quick post to bring your attention to an exciting project which features the type of vernacular photography that I love. ‘Man on Bridge’ is a documentary which will look at the work of Arthur Fields, a Dublin street photographer who worked on O’Connell Bridge for over 50 years. I have a few of his images in my collection including this one of a group of young men taken in the 1950s. You can find out more about the project and how to support it here.

The photographs below are slightly earlier and were taken on O’Connell Street. The back of one of the prints outlines the contact details for Irish Walking Films where the photographs could be collected.

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This post is about photography but it doesn’t include any photographs! The graphics used by Victorian photographers on the backs of their cartes-de-visite were often as interesting as their photographs.

The earliest were backed by copperplate signatures or simple coloured logos. In later decades, Victorian ornamentation intertwined elaborate fonts around stylised flowers and patterns. Art Nouveau influences are to be found in the early 20th century before a return to plainer modernist styles in the 1920s and 30s. The backs I have featured here are all from Irish studios of the 1860s and 70s.

During this period printers often used different coloured inks for photographers’ logos and the ones featured here include an attractive aquamarine, chocolate brown and indigo.

Several of the logos include line drawings of the large box cameras which were used in studios during this period. In addition to the expected camera motif various signs and symbols recur such as the sun and artists’ easels and palettes. Palettes are visible on three of the Irish cards emphasising the artistic nature of photographers.

In attempt to give their studios prestige and pedigree two of the above studios have adopted mottoes. Adolphe of Grafton Street uses ‘Nunquam non paratus’  meaning ‘never unprepared.’ and Thomas North, also of Grafton Street used ‘animo et fide’ which means ‘courageously and faithfully’. One wonders how much courage was required to run a photographic studio during the period?

Other heraldic devices include the belt and buckle which encircles the box camera on the carte by Adolphe and the griffin like creature which appears on the example from A.D. Roche in Cork.

Early designs were probably commissioned from local printers using designs copied from other cards. As the industry grew and progressed specialised firms, based mainly in France and Germany, mass-produced cards which could be customised to include the local studio details. An example by one such company, Marion, was used by Hugh Kerr from Northern Ireland. Roger Vaughan has written a very detailed guide to dating the cards produced by this company which is available here and shows that the card above was from the company’s earlier period of the 1860s or 70s.

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Before 1907, if you were sending a postcard to the United States you couldn’t write anything other than the address on the back of the card. As a result of this people wrote their messages around the image and this led to an interesting and quirky intersection of words and pictures. The pattern created by the text against the image is often fascinating. The sender of the first postcard from Howth/Beann Eadair has managed to write a considerable amount of text over the sea and sky! It was sent to California in April 1905. The second card was sent to Boston in 1905 and mentions a trip to the Dublin Horse Show and Donaghadee, near Belfast. 

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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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This photograph shows a view of O’Connell Street from Nelson’s Pillar taken on Monday 7th September 1942. We are always hearing how bleak Ireland was during the 1940s and 50s but to be honest I wouldn’t mind a good look around the shops on this block. The Thom’s Street Directory for 1942 lists the businesses as the Saxone Shoe Company; Dunn & Co., hatters; Rowntree & Co. Ltd., cocoa, chocolate and confectionary manufacturers; Jameson & Co., jewellers; Bobby Morris, ladies’ hairdressers and Clifford’s and Maxwell’s, tailors. It also includes Jordan’s Billiard Saloon.  

The print is actually quite small but I don’t mind that the close-ups are slightly blurred as they still give a real sense of the street showing cyclists, delivery trucks, people chatting and going about their everyday lives. 

According to The Irish Times for the date you could go and see the following films at O’Connell Street cinemas: the Metropole was showing a farce called Charley’s American Aunt with Jack Benny, Kay Francis, James Ellison and Anne Baxter. The Savoy was showing Gone with the Wind and the Carlton featured Elsie Janis and Wendy Barrie in Women in War. Jim Keenan’s Dublin Cinemas: A Pictorial Selection (2005) and Marc Zimmerman’s History of Dublin Cinemas (2007) provide an excellent account of Dublin’s many cinemas.

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