Power and Privilege:

Photographs of the Big House in Ireland 1858-1922

This exhibition is now closed.

Today it is difficult to imagine a world without photographs - it is hard to believe photography is only 160 years old.

Early Photographers, Clonbrock, Ahascragh, Co. Galway, 1899.

Photography quickly became a popular leisure activity among wealthy Irish men and women soon after it was invented. In the photographic exhibition Power & Privilege we see their world through their own eyes.

A Touring Exhibition from National Library of Ireland

'The Big House'

Workmen, Clonbrock, Ahascragh, Co. Galway, February 1870

The photographs in this exhibition document an important feature of Irish rural life – ‘the Big House’ – or the homes of local landlords. These photographs are interesting because they are rare and give us an insight into daily life at a relatively prosperous and peaceful time. All seemed prosperous but in only a few years after these photographs were taken the landlord system was torn down ending the era of the ‘Big House’.

In this exhibition, you can step back in time into the homes and lives of the first photographers. Put faces to the names of those that lived in the ‘Big Houses’ of the 19th century. See what they wore, their carriages and motor cars, how they spent their leisure time. Meet those ‘downstairs’ - the house servants, farm workers and tenants that kept the gardens and houses.

1880 Workmen by the shore at Turlough Park House, now home to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, by Thomas J. Wynne

Step back in time

Stand where Castlebar photographer, Thomas J. Wynne stood around 1880 and took a photograph of workmen by the lakeshore of Turlough Park, which is now home to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life.

Gardens at Inistioge, Co.Kilkenny, with six inch box hedges.
Visit the exhibition and ‘walk’ through the formal gardens at Woodstock, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny where the box hedges were maintained at six inches and perfumed so that if a lady’s skirt brushed over them it would set off the perfume.

Imagine what it was like to look out the windows of a luxury society carriage drawn by a pair of horses.

This exhibition offers a chance to discover the evolution of photography. What are the optical and chemical principals that brought us photography? Why are there pairs of the same photographs? And what has this got to do with 3-D films today?

Power and privilege is a selection of photographs drawn from the National Photographic Archive’s collection of over a million photographs. This is the first time these photographs will be exhibited in the West of Ireland.

An early motor car, Ross House, Ross, Co. Galway, 1898-99.

About the prints

Prints for Power & Privilege were created from four of the National Library glass plate collections and from selected photographic albums. The glass plate collections are from the Commerical firms of William Mervyn Lawrence Collection (1865-1914), and A.H. Poole Collection (1884-1954). The 19th century Stereo pairs collection are by two Dublin photographers, James Simonton and Frederick Holland Mares. The Clonbrock collection (1860-1930) was taken by members of the Dillon family from Ahascragh, east Galway.

The framed copy prints on display were produced by scanning the original glass plate negatives or photographing the original prints. The final images were printed using a pigment ink set onto Hahnemühle fibre based archival paper.

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