, , , ,

Question: Do you have any archives that you could have access to? Might you be able to use it for the beginnings of a project? Blog about some ideas that you could come back to some day.

The first and most obvious photographic archive that I have access to is my immediate family’s. Using this archive would result in a very personal project. Family albums are of interest to others usually only when there is a historical dimension to the images, something that only time, at least decades, can give. For example a reviewer of Dublin’s Gallery of Photography recent exhibition of their ongoing ‘Photo Album of Ireland project’ (Gallery of Photography, s.d; Learning blog, 2014), noted:

Looking at old family photograph albums, we usually ask questions about which relative the image shows and where it was taken however, simply by being hung on gallery walls, these images are newly interpreted as objects of beauty, where colour, light, and composition now assume primary significance. For example, what is striking about an image of a man and his three children … the bright furnishings of the 1970’s interior as a series of abstract shapes and colours (Hanna, 2014:54-55).

There exists also of course a wider and older archive, as with most families, but this, though it undoubtedly exists, is by now so geographically scattered as to make its collection a major project in itself regardless of what the photographs themselves might yield.

A public archive is held by the National Library of Ireland (National Library of Ireland, s.d). The collections:

comprise approximately 5.2 million photographs, the vast majority of which are Irish. While most of the collections are historical there are some contemporary collections. Subject matter ranges from topographical views to studio portraits, and from political events to early tourist photographs. The Library maintains an active collecting policy and material is constantly added to the collections, often by way of generous donations from various sources (National Library of Ireland, s.d).

Since 2011 the Library has placed some of its photograph collection on Flick’s ‘The Commons’ (Flickr, s.d).  As well as this online resource photographs in the archive may be consulted by appointment (National Library of Ireland, s.d 2).

Such a mainly historical archive as the National Library’s would need to be approached in an insightful manner. In this regard the work of Christian Boltanski is of interest especially his use of portraits in the work ‘Archive’ which:

consisted of hundreds of black-and-white photographs of children and adolescents. Minimally framed, blurred by the process of being rephotographed, this mixture of official school portraits and casual snapshots was hung floor to ceiling on the room’s walls. Photographs also covered both sides of three steel-mesh screens that, positioned parallel to each other, divided the tiny space into narrow, dead-end corridors. The work had an oppressive atmosphere, implicitly saddening and redolent of loss (Smith, 1988).

Similarly in Boltanski’s work  ‘Autel de Lycée Chases’ (1988) the greatly enlarged photographs used were ‘taken from a real-world source, the school photograph of the graduating class of 1931 from a Viennese high school for Jewish students’ (Guggenheim, s.d).


Smith, Roberta (1988) ‘Boltanski’s Haunting Fragments of Despair’ In: The New York Times [online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/12/arts/art-view-boltanski-s-haunting-fragments-of-despair.html (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

Flickr (s.d.) National Library of Ireland on The Commons At: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/albums (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

Gallery of Photography (s.d.) The Photo Album of Ireland At: http://www.galleryofphotography.ie/photo-album-ireland/ (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

Guggenheim (s.d) Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance. Christian Boltanski : Documentation and Reiteration At: http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/education/school-educator-programs/teacher-resources/arts-curriculum-online?view=item&catid=732&id=153 (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

Hanna, Erika (2014) ‘Life’s a Beach’ In: Source 80 pp. 54-55

Learning blog (2014) Curator’s Talk — The Photo Album of Ireland Project At: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/curators-talk-the-photo-album-of-ireland-project/ (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

National Library of Ireland (s.d) Introduction At: http://www.nli.ie/en/photographs-introduction.aspx (Accessed on: 22.05.15)

National Library of Ireland ( s.d 2) Accessing Photographs At: http://www.nli.ie/en/accessing-photographs.aspx (Accessed on: 22.05.15)