Wednesday 21 March 2018

A century of moments in making of modern Ireland

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

IT has been called "the graphic record of a century".

The work of Irish Independent group photographers has become a focal point of a major exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

'The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from 1900s to 1970s' examines the progress of 20th-century Ireland through various art forms and features the work of some 180 artists and writers from Jack B Yeats to Seamus Heaney.

Included in the exhibition is an array of remarkable pictures taken by Irish Independent photographers during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.


They include Dublin lit up at night for the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 and American pilot Amelia Earhart landing in Derry that same year following her historic solo flight across the Atlantic.

Among the more striking images are shots of the 1924 Tailteann Games in Croke Park, an ancient pre-Norman sporting event revived during the 1920s and 1930s, and a poignant picture of children 'playing red cross' in Dublin during the Civil War in 1922.

"We don't know the names of the photographers who took these pictures but there is a very strong artistic feeling to them which these photographers were displaying with their work," IMMA head of collections Christina Kennedy said.

"Their photographs are amazing, strong images which stand as artwork and provide a background to what other artists, architects and writers were responding to at the time."

But these pictures are only a fraction of the 300,000 glass-plate negatives, plastic negatives and prints that make up the Independent Newspapers photographic collection, which was donated to the National Library in 2004.


Ranging from 1912 to 1997, many of these images are just a few clicks away on the National Library's website,, the world's largest collection of photographs relating to Ireland.

The Independent Newspapers collection is something which in the future will be a major resource for social history.

Brian McKenna is keeper of Print & Visual at the National Library, which supplied the images to the IMMA. "Sport remains a huge part of the collection with All-Ireland finals, rugby and soccer matches going back through the years," he said.

The exhibition at the IMMA, Dublin, continues until February 2011.

Irish Independent

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