Contributed by Orla Fitzpatrick
This new book covers a period that is particularly fascinating, albeit somewhat confusing, for photographic historians. The Irish revolutionary period offers a rich photographic archive. Portraits range from official mugshots held in government archives to family portraits commissioned from commercial photographic studios. Snapshots taken by onlookers and documentary images captured by press photographers offer powerful depictions of armed combat and its aftermath. All of these could be and were manipulated and circulated for the purpose of propaganda or indeed suppressed or hidden by the various sides. The chaos which prevailed at certain times during the period scattered photographs far and wide and has left a bewildering array of personal and private collections which both excite and perplex the researcher and historian of the period.
The matter of provenance can be challenging for such a disparate group of photographs. Prints can be held simultaneously by multiple institutions and individuals. Generally speaking, the holder of the negative, if it exists, takes primacy over the print owner although many have been lost over the years. The further you move away from the original source negative the poorer the image quality becomes, so that second, third and even later generation prints can lose definition and clarity. For these reasons, when conducting photographic research, I tend to use photographs where the negatives or original prints are held by public institutions. The assignation of a verifiable number to each image and clear provenance and copyright for the collection make them more accessible and usable than those held by private companies and individuals.
Revolution: a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923 covers the period leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916; the War of Independence and the Civil War and its aftermath. Read More