Personal photos shed light on George Bernard Shaw’s life

George Bernard Shaw: one of the images from the huge collection

An extensive collection of photographs taken by George Bernard Shaw offers a new insight into the Irish playwright’s life.

The collection which includes thousands of photographs is to be made available to the public for the first time. Shaw bought his first camera in 1898. He quickly became a keen amateur photographer and continued taking photos until his death in 1950.

Known as one of Ireland’s greatest writers, Shaw was born in Synge Street, Dublin in 1856. His works include over 60 plays. He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938). He was the co-founder of London’s School of Economics.

The collection comprises of approximately 24,000 photographs and negatives and 15 photo albums. The photographs include pictures of his travels with his wife Charlotte in Dublin; Parknasilla Co. Kerry; Europe; New Zealand and South Africa, as well as images of film stars such as Vivian Leigh and Stewart Granger.

National Trust curator for the East of England, Fiona Hall, told the Irish Independent: "For me, the most interesting aspect revealed in the collection is the contrast between 'GBS' the public figure and 'Bernard Shaw' the private man. There are many portraits of Shaw himself, both self-portraits and those taken by others.

"The shots of GBS, the celebrity, show him unsmiling, dressed smartly and holding a prop such as a cane. More intimate shots show him relaxed, surfing, picnicking, and striking poses from famous sculptures, including Rodin's Thinker," Ms Hall said.

Shaw once said, "The camera can represent flesh so superbly that, if I dared, I would never photograph a figure without asking that figure to take its clothes off" but he is the only subject to have done so in the collection, with shots of him on the beach or taken by his wife.

"He clearly had a highly developed sense of fun and was very comfortable with his public and private personas," Ms Hall added.

The first images of the project can be viewed on the London School of Economics library’s website.