Local photographer is in focus at special exhibition

Some of the Greasai's camera equipment and the photograph of his sleeping children that won a major international award.
Some of the Greasai's camera equipment and the photograph of his sleeping children that won a major international award.

Mary Murphy

A TALENTED photographer and a real Tralee character is the focus of a great new exhibition that opened to the public this week at the Kerry County Museum.

The photography exhibition about the late Tomás Breathnach, better known to the people of Tralee as the Greasaí, celebrates one very special achievement in his life and times.

The Greasaí had a workshop next to the library in Dean's Lane for many years, and is a legendary figure in Tralee, known as a talented shoemaker, photographer and Irish language enthusiast

In 1964 Tomás Breathnach took a picture of his twin daughters Treasa and Grainne asleep in their pram, which was entered in the international Asahi Pentax Worldwide Photograph Competition. Organised to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics the competition attracted upwards of 150,000 entries but it was the image of the sleeping Kerry children which took the first prize, and launched the Greasaí's photographic career.

"Tomás went to Dublin with his friend Emmett Kennelly to collect his prize and it turned out to be camera equipment worth £500. We did the maths and that equates to a value of around €20,000 today," Eoin Quilter of the Kerry County Museum said.

"The competition launched him really, people came to him to have pictures taken but also for advice and help," he added.

The exhibition at the Kerry County Museum contains not only the original photograph of the girls but the photographic equipment that he won and some images of the Greasaí in his workshop

The display at the museum came about as a result of a passing conversation between his daughter Treasa and Kerry County Museum curator Helen O'Carroll.

"Treasa was talking about her father and the huge archive he left behind, she brought the material to us and we were really impressed. We could do a full exhibition on the Tomás Breathnach archive but we just do not have enough space at the moment," Eoin Quilter said.

"This temporary exhibition focuses on just one thing, the prize he received in 1964, as we felt we couldn't do justice to the full archive in such a small space," he added.

The exhibition was launched on Tuesday evening at the Kerry County Museum by Tomás Breathnach's good friend Emmett Kennelly.

All eight of the Breathnach children and the Greasaí's many grandchildren were invited to the opening of the exhibition, and guests of honour on the day were twins Treasa and Grainne, who travelled from her home in Massachusetts to be part of the day.

The photographic exhibition will run at the museum until the end of November.


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