Sixty years of Irish history including 2.6 million negatives and key events in Ireland such as the arrival of the Beatles, Princess Grace, Muhammad Ali and John F Kennedy has been preserved by a Dublin photo agency.
Lensmen Press and Public Relations Photographic Agency was set up in Dublin in 1952 by Andy Farren and Padraig MacBrien. In 1995, Susan Kennedy took over the business and the archive.
The sixty years of Irish history captured there includes many fascinating images of key events: The Beatles, Princess Grace, Muhammad Ali and John F. Kennedy all visited, many Presidents were inaugurated and many Football and Hurling finals were won and lost.
Susan says: “What I feel makes it even more valuable, historically speaking, are the images of day-to-day Irish life - street scenes, dog shows, weddings, communions, office presentations and family portraits”.
Susan has been running a photographic agency all this time and the business continues to grow. Last year the significant task of digitizing the collection began, up until then the archive had been relatively untouched. The hope is that over sixty years of work and sixty years of Irish life will be made accessible to everyone through the website www.irishphotoarchive.ie and it will preserve this vast, historically important, collection for generations to come.
Tara Keown, who is managing the archive originally comes from Fermanagh. She moved to Limerick to do a degree in English Literature and History at the University of Limerick followed by a Masters in The History of Art and Architecture - also in Limerick.
She said “The Masters was an ideal course as it allowed me to pursue specialist areas such as display, catalogue assembly etc. I love research and, being an individual who has an innate preoccupation with attention to detail, I find archiving suits me down to the ground.
“Finding work with Irish Photo Archive was really a dream come true, working here is fascinating and I adore it. While it can be time consuming, and to many it may seem tedious, I seldom tire of it - perhaps because there's always the anticipation of new and exciting images lying just around the corner.”
A typical day consists of scanning negatives - there are approximately 2.6 million in the archive so it's a huge project. All the negatives from the 1950s are glass, the 60s, 70s and a significant chunk of the 80s black and white and after that color predominates. If we’re not scanning negatives we are editing, captioning and 'cleaning' them (which means PhotoShopping out dust or scratches) then uploading them to our website.
Tara also deals on a daily basis with enquires from the public looking for images of relatives from various events throughout the years, newspapers (both national and international) looking for images to accompany stories, publishers who need images to illustrate books, many curators of photographic exhibitions and people simply ordering images they have found through the website – www.irishphotoarchive.ie.
Tara says “The digitization of the archive is a monumental task and there is a huge amount of work still to be done but the satisfaction you get from making these magnificent images available to the public is lovely. The knowledge that this task of preservation will stop history from slowly decaying on a shelf is wholly rewarding and I feel privileged to be involved.”
If anyone can identify who’s in any of the photographs or can tell us anything more detailed about the images contact Tara at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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