Power and Privilege: photographs of the Big House in Ireland 1858-1922

Take a rare opportunity to view photographs of life in Ireland’s ‘Big Houses’ during the mid 1800s and early 1900s at Power and Privilege: photographs of the Big House in Ireland 1858-1922, an exhibition at the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar, Dublin.

The exhibition features a selection of photographs taken between 1858 and 1922. These are divided into six main themes: gardens and landscape; employees; transport; entertainment and recreation; the arts and sciences; and family life. They are drawn from the National Photographic Archive’s collection of 630,000 images, the world’s largest collection of Irish photographs dating from 1840s to the present.

Some of the images are of homes that remain famous landmarks: Ashford Castle in Co Mayo; Carton House in Co Kildare, and Curraghmore, Co Waterford.  Others, such as Castleboro, Co Wexford and Moydrum Castle Co Westmeath have long since vanished.
Many of these photographs have never previously been on view to the public.

The exhibition draws from two types of image originals – glass plates and period photographs in photographic albums. Many of the photographs were generated by commercial firms such as William Lawrence in Dublin, AH Poole in Waterford, and the Dublin-based professional photographers James Simonton and Frederick Holland Mares.

The oldest photographs in the Power and Privilege exhibition come from the collections of wealthy amateur photographers such as Luke Dillon, 4th Baron Clonbrock and his wife Lady Augusta. The Clonbrock Collection photographs were taken by members of the Dillon family between 1860 and 1930. As well as chronicling most aspects of daily life on the Clonbrock estate in Ahascragh, Co Galway, this collection includes images of estate staff, family members and neighbours, as well as images from the travels of friends and family in Ireland.

Power and Privilege continues at the National Photographic Archive until Spring 2011. Admission is free.