View Ireland: Collecting Photography
Curated by Anne Hodge, Curator of Prints and Drawings; and Sarah McAuliffe, Curatorial Fellow, NGI Hugh Lane Room, NGI, Merrion Square West, Dublin 2, runs to 2 February 2020
The first image that meets the eye of the visitor to this select show of Irish photographs is one of Evelyn Hofer’s remarkable images from Dublin: a Portrait (1967) in which her most evocative images were well matched by a fine text by V. S. Pritchett — to my mind one of the finest photo books ever produced on Dublin.
The National Gallery has only just started to collect photographs, and this new departure is to be warmly welcomed. In a small case some early samples of different kinds of photo images are displayed.
But then the show leaps to the 1950s.
What is here will be for many people an eye-opening, mind-altering experience”
This means that more than a century of photo images are passed over: but time and careful curating will solve that. When one thinks that after the 1880s when Kodaks were introduced, millions of images have been made in Ireland, one realises the task.
Though one looks in vain for Cartier-Bresson and Lee Miller (they are on the agenda for future shows), this is a very varied selection of master photographers. It focuses, however, on the now vanished Dublin of the two post-war decades, a city of ruins, demolition, old faces and small children, the working men and girls having emigrated, very much a country for old people (contrary to what Yeats claimed). I was delighted though to see those remarkable local pictures by Dennis Dinneen of Macroom were found a place.
One photographer, Leipzig-born Lutz Dille, comments on his images: “I prefer to photograph on the street. That’s where I think people are most themselves. where they are at their most honest.”
This idea pervades many of the other images too, but it is often a bleak honesty.
The show does not neglect that diaspora: we have ‘Francis Bacon’ by Bill Brandt, a haunting image made on the bleak height of Primrose Hill in north London, and a moving image of an Irish dance hall in New York, that might be in Offaly.
I prefer to photograph on the street. That’s where I think people are most themselves”
Space precludes a roll call of the artists in the show, but what is here will be for many people an eye-opening, mind-altering experience, a brief taste of what will clearly become a remarkable addition to the national collections.