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Until November 2020

Ireland in Focus: Photographing the 1950s


Races, Thurles, Ireland, June 1952, Henri Cartier Bresson

The exhibition seeks to highlight the way in which three photographers, from France and North America, saw and portrayed Ireland of the 1950s, through the places they visited and the people they photographed.

One such person was Henri Cartier-Bresson. Regarded by many as the world’s greatest photographer, he completed two photographic missions in Ireland. On assignment from Harper's Bazaar magazine, he arrived in Dublin in June 1952, returning for a holiday in October 1962. Travelling throughout the country during both visits, he took photographs in Dublin, Kildare, Westmeath, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford. His images, that include landscapes, street scenes, portraits and public events, are regarded as exceptional visual records of a time and place that was 1950s’ Ireland.

The Paris-based Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson is loaning over fifty images to the National Museum of Ireland for the exhibition. Many of the images have never been shown previously. Selected photographs from two other important photographic collections created in the 1950s will be shown alongside Cartier-Bresson’s work.

The renowned American photographer, Dorothea Lange, travelled to Ireland in 1954 on assignment from Life magazine. A selection of her photographs from County Clare, where she captured more than two thousand images, form part of the exhibition.

The photographs of Paris-based American anthropologist, Robert Cresswell, who lived for over a year in Kinvara during 1955 and 1956, will also be shown. Cresswell took over four hundred photographs in the Kinvara area, including an exceptional set of Kodakchrome slides. The photographs were taken as part of his fieldwork in a 1950s' rural community in transition. He published his findings in what is now regarded as a seminal anthropological study of rural life, Une Communaut√© Rurale de l’Irlande. 

Ireland in Focus: Photographing the 1950s will open to the public in the National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History from 21 November, 2019, and run into April 2020. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates.


Ireland in Focus: Photographing the 1950s is located at:
Collins Barracks ,
Benburb St,
Dublin 7
D07 XKV4

Rarely shown images from three photographic collections created during what is generally regarded as one of the most challenging decades in 20th Century Ireland.

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Decorative Arts & History

Collins Barracks ,
Benburb St,
Dublin 7,
D07 XKV4

+353 1 677 7444