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Ireland's National Photographic Archive: Small Lives

The 50 photographs – mostly black and white – are drawn from across NLI’s collections, and range from formal studio portraits featuring children of the landed classes taken in the 1880s to more candid shots of city kids taken in the 1960s. Small Lives shows Irish children not just in the context of their own lives but also in the context of Irish history, incorporating major events such as Michael Collins’ funeral in 1922, the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 and the Arranmore Disaster in November 1935 – events which were an important part of 20th century Irish social and political life.

As well as photographs, the Small Lives exhibition features a number of illustrations dating from the 1830s. These illustrations, housed in NLI’s Prints and Drawings Department, demonstrate how children were depicted before photography. They show how line drawing could suggest movement – something which photography could not do in the 1800s, when the technology was still in its infancy.

You can read the official press release from Aoife O’Connor, the exhibition curator, here, and details of the exhibit here. If you can't make it to Dublin, there is an interesting selection of photos from the exhibition that can be found on this site here too.


Photo: Walking Home.

Format: Glass Negative

Size: 10 x 13 cm

Date: circa 1904

NLI Ref.: CLAR35

Reproduction rights owned by the National Library of Ireland


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