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The Irish Office of Public Works has published a book on the photographer William Despard Hemphill (1816–1902), a native of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The book accompanies an exhibition about Hemphill that is currently touring venues around Ireland. 

A well-respected medical practitioner with a wide range of interests, Dr Hemphill experimented with the latest photographic techniques and won several prestigious awards. At a time when photography was a complex, expensive and sometimes dangerous pursuit, Hemphill was among the first to photograph in detail antiquities such as the Rock of Cashel and Holycross Abbey. He was welcome too in some of the ‘big houses’ around Clonmel where there was considerable interest in amateur photography.

Hemphill’s images – portraits, still life, architecture and scenery – are records of immense historical value. They are also sublime works of art, inviting us to reflect on temporal beauty, artistic rendering and photography as interpretation. A fascinating aspect of Hemphill’s work was his stereoscopic photography.

The illustrated 104 page publication: William Despard Hemphill, Irish Victorian Photographer (Dublin: Office of Public Works, 2014). ISBN 9781406428254) is edited by Dr Karol Mullaney-Dignam, and includes contributions from David H Davison, Richard Comerford and Eric Earle.

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Comment by Michael Smallman on September 24, 2014 at 15:14

There is also an earlier book on Hemphill - Patrick Holland Tipperary images: the photography of Dr William Despard Hemphill. Cahir: Thalassa Books, 2003. 106p. - well produced and edited. Holland had been curator of Tipperary S.R. County Museum and worked hard on Hemphill.

I hope the exhibition will come north.


Michael Smallman

Ballinderry Lower, Co. Antrim

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