Small lives through the camera lens
By Irish music photographer and blogger Loreana Rushe
Small Lives – Photographs of Irish Childhood (1880-1970) is a fascinating overview of a bygone world where photographic technology was changing alongside Irish society.
Studio shots were used in the early part of the 19th century, where children were dressed in their best clothes and had to remain still for as long as possible to get the perfect shot, often adding a weird aura to the photographs. As smaller and cheaper cameras became more available families could take more personal and natural photographs of special occasions and holidays.
One of my favourite photo from this collection is entitled ‘Metal Man’. Its exact date is unknown, between 1880-1914, which adds to its mysteriousness.
The young girls holding hands seem to be dancing around the metal man which brings to mind the pagen legend ‘The Wicker Man’. The pillar is one of three in Tramore. Legend has it that if you hop barefoot three times around the metal man you will marry within the year!
Even though times have changed, it’s hard not to look at some of these and compare them with my own childhood memories.
In ‘Saying Hello’ from 1934, a little girl and her mother come face to face with a donkey in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The girl’s mother gave her bread to feed the donkey but she seems to be enjoying it for herself. This brings back memories of my weekends spent at the Dublin Zoo; getting more excited about feeding time in the petting zoo than the exotic animals!
I’m sure anyone who visits will make their own personal connections from the photographs in this lovely nostalgic exhibition.
Small Lives – Photographs of Irish Childhood (1880-1970) at the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar, Dublin, runs from 25th August 2011 until June 2012.