Michael Kenneally in his home today near Inagh.

Famous photographer captured Co Clare's rural life in iconic images


Michael Kenneally in his home today near Inagh.

At 81, Michael Kenneally, has rarely left his native Co Clare and has never been out of the country, but a famous picture of him as a young man has traveled all over the world.

Snapped by American photographer Dorothea Lange in 1954 for 'Life' magazine, Mr Kenneally, from Inagh, Co Clare, clearly remembers the day the photograph was taken.

"She was passing on the road and she came up and just asked me if she could take my picture," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Kenneally, who was 24 at the time, was living in the family home with his mother and "doing a bit of farming."

After he married his wife Bridie, the couple moved into the house and raised their three sons -- Gerald, Pat and Michael.

Mr Kenneally was just one of a number of subjects photographed by Dorothea Lange for 'Life' magazine. The photographer, most famous for her work during The Great Depression, took more than 2,500 pictures of rural life in Co Clare, over 100 of which were published in the magazine. More images were featured in Gerry Mullins' 1996 book 'Dorothea Lange's Ireland.' The book reached number three on the bestsellers list at the time it was published.

Lange is now the subject of an award-winning documentary entitled 'Child of Giants.' The film is directed by Tom Ropelewski and is about his father-in-law Daniel Dixon and Daniel's famous parents, Lange and the painter Maynard Dixon.

Mary Leyden Kinnavane, 68, also recalls being photographed by Lange.

"I remember her well," Mrs Kinnavane, the daughter of a publican in Ennis, recalls. "She asked my two sisters to step aside because I was the plainest of the three and she wanted my picture."

The portrait, which won numerous awards, once hung in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

"I was looking sadly into the camera but at the age of 10 I could see the misery and poverty around me and she saw it in my eyes," she said.

Lange's granddaughter Leslie Dixon is a Hollywood scriptwriter who has penned scripts for such movies as 'The Thomas Crown Affair,' Hairspray,' and 'Limitless.' She will also be traveling to Ireland with her husband Tom for the documentary's several screenings.

'Child of Giants' got its first European screening on Friday night in Dublin's Lighthouse Cinema. The film-makers are bringing the documentary to Ballyvaughan, Co Clare on Sunday night to mark Lange's association with the place. It will also be screened at the Phoenix Cinema in Dingle on Tuesday, as part of the Dingle International Film Festival. A question and answer session with the director will take place afterwards.


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