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NLI's photographic exhibition featuring Kildare celebrates the age of analogue photography in Ireland

The photographic exhibition is based at the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar, and is free. Drop in if you are in Dublin with family or friends, or check out the photographic archive online.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023
Aerial photograph of flooding at Leixlip, Co. Kildare

Flooding at Leixlip, Co. Kildare (NPA MOR773)

The exhibition captures the social, cultural and technological changes that have taken place across Ireland from the middle of the 19th century up to the turn of this century, and features photos capturing moments in historical Kildare life.

The exhibition offers unique glimpses into Irish history and ordinary Irish lives, as well the evolution of photography, including a snapshot of women in the 1860s selling refreshments in Killarney and a remarkable shot of a passing steam train in Clones, Co Monaghan in 1959.

The exhibition comprises 50 photographs taken between 1858–2001, representing the age of analogue photography in Ireland. Photographs on display include early forms such as salt paper print and stereo-pair up to more contemporary photography.

One striking image in the exhibition features an aerial shot of extensive flooding in 1954. On the 8 December 1954 gale force winds and torrential rain swept across the country, causing extensive flooding, with damage to buildings and infrastructure. The photograph shows the River Liffey, which has burst its banks in Leixlip, a village at the time in 1950’s Ireland.

A second image features a horse drawn ‘fire tender’ at the Curragh Army Camp, taken around 1900 – 1910, and is part of the Eason Photographic Collection. This photo was from a glass negative, sized between 31x25.5cm or smaller in its original state.

Commenting, Acting Head of Exhibitions, Learning and Programming at the NLI and curator of this exhibition, Sara Smyth said: “What’s collected today becomes history tomorrow. As Ireland’s memory-keeper, the NLI continues to collect and share a vibrant national collection that documents historical and contemporary life on the island of Ireland, including County Kildare. The NLI houses over five million photographs, which are a visual record of the history and culture of Ireland.

“The People and Places exhibition will run until 2025. This first phase features framed photographs from 20 of our most popular collections. The images selected speak to the diversity of Ireland, with photographs representing almost every county, North and South of the Border.

“We highlight working-class and middle-class communities; women, who usually appear less often than men in history telling; and we juxtaposition rural communities alongside their urban counterparts. Themes, such as climate change and transport, are also addressed.”

As part of Culture night on Friday 22nd September, the exhibition space is open late until 9pm, free entry and no booking necessary.

The People and Places exhibition in Temple Bar warmly welcomes school tours and groups, like photography societies and historical societies. To book a group, simply contact the NLI team on learning@nli.ie.

To discover more photographs from the NLI’s vast collections, go to www.nli.ie.