Dublin, then & now

A mother takes a walk with her child along Dublin’s North Wall quay. Both have auburn hair, and the water glistens a deep blue. This is modern Dublin, evident in the woman’s business-suit and the child's stroller, which must be worth several hundred euros.

It’s one of the striking images in the "Dublin, Then and Now" exhibition currently on show at the Irish Consulate in New York. The exhibition brings together images of Ireland’s fair city from 1963, and 2003, clearly showing the change that has occurred in between. The photographs, collected by the Irish American Heritage Museum, will soon tour around the country: on March 13, they move to the Commodore Barry Club in Philadelphia and after that to other Irish centers, possibly touching in at Fairfield Connecticut, Buffalo New York, Mineola and San Francisco.

Chairman of the board of trustees at the Heritage Museum, Edward Collins, says the exhibition is an emotional experience. “People who have a chance to see it should see it because it will move you,” he told me. “It’s a moving exhibit. The photographs are stunning: the way Marvin Koner captured life is very poignant.”

Most of the photos are by Koner and date from 1963. Black and white, they show a city so transfixed in time it could be America in the thirties: street urchins peer curiously at the camera; a father gives his son a taste of Guinness in a pub; an old man sits alone on a pier, pulling a dark coat around him against the cold. The photos show both what Dublin has gained and what it has lost.

The 1963 pictures contrast with nine modern photos by Declan Corrigan. In full color, Corrigan’s photos portray an ubermodern, multicultural city, full of businessmen, clinking glasses, and wealth. They were taken in 2003 at the height of the Celtic Tiger dream.

In many ways the 2003 images are already out of date. In 2010 Dublin is a different city again, consumed by financial anxiety and recurrent scandal. It may be time soon to take another set of photographs that document the changes of the past seven years: the exhibition would be called Dublin Then, and Then, and Now.

[For more information see the Consulate General of New York]