A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice. The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your chosen image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis.
Early into this section of the course, I began to consider photographs which might have local historic value. I focused my attention on the work of limerick based photographers, with the intention of finding an image that would have the scope for a thorough deconstruction and analysis. While working on The Art of Photography module, I visited an exhibition of photographs by Franz S. Haselbeck, curated by his granddaughter Patricia Haselbeck Flynn. A book of photographs, Franz S. Haselbeck’s Ireland: Selected Photographs, was also launched in conjunction with the exhibition. Haselbeck photographed all sides of the Irish social and political divide, including Irish veterans returning from the First World War, the occupying British Army, the IRA and the Irish Volunteers. When the German company, Siemens, were contracted to build the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric power station near Limerick City. Haselbeck found employment as a translator and store-man on the site, which put him in a unique position to chart and record the electrification of Ireland.
I wrote a blog post on my visit to this exhibition, which can be found here.
Looking through Haselbeck’s collection of photographs, the image which had the most appeal features the aftermath of a car crash on Wolfe Tone Street in Limerick City. The following caption describes the event which took place on 18th April 1934. “The car with a Limerick licence plate T1 2682 appears to be an 8 h. p. Ford Model Y, built in Cork in 1933. The occupants of the car, the Byrnes family of Patrickswell, were trapped in the car. When freed, they were rushed to Barrington’s Hospital where they were treated for shock and severe cuts. The licence plate on the upturned car is also a County Limerick registration: IU 237. Driver unknown. The ladder from which painter Gerard Kennedy was knocked, leans against the window of Thomas Walsh’s Pub” (Haselbeck Flynn 2013). This photograph seemed to be worthy of a thousand words at least, and, finding enough to say about my chosen photograph was something I had concerns about.
I had intended to review a collection of photographs by the Limerick based Egleston Brothers, and had gotten as far as borrowing a book of their work from Limerick City Library, when it occurred to me that I should perhaps consider using a particular photograph of my grandfather for the assignment. For the third assignment, I used ancestral research to help inform my submission. I really enjoyed and was motivated by the more personal approach to the assignment, and I think this enthusiasm came across.
The photograph I chose to scrutinize for this assignment has hung on my sitting room wall for several years. It was a Christmas present from my girlfriend, and features my grandfather, Tadhg Prendiville. The photograph was purchased from The Kennelly Archive, and is one of three photographs taken the same day by either Padraig or Joan Kennelly. The Kennelly’s ran a freelance photography business and traveled throughout Kerry photographing schools, churches, pubs and dancehalls. “Wherever people were playing or celebrating, be it by day or by night, Padraig and Joan were there to record it. The Kennelly’s covered every sort of assignment from the ordinary to the extraordinary, during times of tragedy and triumph” (The Kennelly Archive).
I have casually studied the photograph of my grandfather many times but it wasn’t until this assignment that I really got to the the heart of the image. As the photograph features my grandfather, a publican, in his place of work, I decided to look at photographers who’s work features people in the workplace. During previous research on Lee Friedlander, I came across his series, At Work. Featuring people at work, Friedlander’s subject seem determined to avoid eye contact with the camera. His series seems to contrast more with my grandfather’s image, than have similarities. By comparison, Kennelly’s image appears more dynamic and vibrant, as opposed to the static feel of Freidlander’s, although many of Friedlander’s subjects are sitting at machines or desks.
I wrote a blog post of Lee Friedlander which is linked here.
Reviewing any book on the history of photography, would reveal references to August Sander’s People of the Twentieth Century. Sander seems to have been ahead of his time, being one of the pioneering photographers to move portraiture beyond the studio, to make “simple, natural portraits that show the subjects in an environment corresponding to their own individuality” (Ang 2014 p.152). While many of his portraits are quite formal and still, he did also photograph on the streets and roads. The images Sander captured out and about in the world are by far his most dynamic and natural works.I emailed The Kennelly Archive several times, asking their permission to publish the photograph of my grandfather in my assignment blog post, but I received no reply. However, I’ve linked the photograph on the archive website. I must apologize for the watermark that appears on the image, but that is beyond my control.
I spent a lot of time looking at Kennelly’s photograph of my grandfather, and I was amazed by the amount of information held within the frame. Central to the image are the Guinness kegs, and other bar-room paraphernalia. Through my research I discovered Bill Yenne’s book on the history of Guinness, to be both interesting and comprehensive. In preparation for the essay, I read the OCA guide to Academic Essays Writing, and proceeded to plan my essay accordingly.
Assignment Four is linked here.
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