Jill Freedman was a highly respected New York City documentary photographer but she also has a great passion for photographing Ireland in some of her lesser-known works. 

An Irish photographer is on a mission to bring the work of the late Jill Freedman to Ireland. The famed New York photographer had an incredible passion for Ireland. 

Jill Freedman was a highly respected New York City documentary photographer whose award-winning work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography, George Eastman House, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, among others. She has appeared in solo and group exhibitions throughout the world and has contributed to many prominent publications.

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Image: Jill Freedman.

Image: Jill Freedman.

A lesser-known fact about Freedman, who sadly passed away in October 2019, is that she also photographed Ireland after first visiting there in the 1960s and a massive passion project of hers was to document traditional Ireland from soda bread and Guinness to her experience of the Céad Míle Failte. 

In Freedman’s own words: “I think of my work in Ireland as a love poem: a celebration of the beauty of the land, the warmth of her people, the simplicity of the old ways and traditions, the humor and conviviality, the sharp wit and black moods, the kindness.

“Today, our vision of that country is colored by the violence of the North or the visual cliches: freckled kids in Irish sweaters; all those green, green fields  It is an older, gentler Ireland I am documenting, a wild and passionate beauty that I feel is the last place on earth.

“I want to get it down now, while there are still people who remember a time that was, places that were, that will never be again.” 

In her honor, Bray-based photographer Des Byrne now hopes to highlight Freedman’s spectacular work in Ireland and is looking for a gallery willing to showcase her work. 

“I had the pleasure of meeting the late Jill Freedman in her apartment in New York, little did I know that Jill would die over a year later in October passed,” Byrne told IrishCentral. 

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Image: Jill Freedman.

Image: Jill Freedman.

"Jill published two books on Ireland: 'A Time that Was' with a foreword by Malachy McCourt and 'Ireland Ever' with a front cover with famous Irish fiddler Johnny Doherty.

“Jill had a love for Ireland and especially the West and became friends with Angela Moloney of Moloney’s Pub in Listowel. This was in the 70s and a lot of her Irish Photographs have never been Exhibited here before!

“With permission from the Jill Freedman Foundation, I am looking for a Gallery in Dublin and County Kerry to help me make this first Jill Freedman Irish Exhibition possible as I know for Jill it would have meant so much,” Byrne continued. 

“She is a world-class legend in photography, virtually unknown in Ireland. but better known in New York for her gritty Street Shots from time spent with the Fire & Police Departments of New York. 

Freedman first visited Ireland in the 60s but it wasn’t until she returned the next decade that she began of her photography of the country. 

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Image: Jill Freedman.

Image: Jill Freedman.

“In the 60s, I  was living in London, singing for my supper. I went over to Ireland for a traditional music festival and was bowled over by the music. I returned again in 1973 after I had at last found photography,” she once explained.  

“Pictures were my music now, and the camera was so much smaller than a guitar. Again I went to hear the music, and again I fell head over heels in love with the place and the people.  For a people are the place, even though the beauty of the land is astounding.

“I loved the gentleness, the sweet shyness, the warm welcomes and farewells, the soda bread warm from the hearth, and always a sup to eat and drink. Guinness fresh as mother’s milk, all the nutritional benefits of dark amber whiskey. The pleasure they had in welcoming a stranger, who left a friend.

“Each time I return I see the changes, the ugly noisy modern world, but I seek out the old ways; people making their own music; the high art of conversation in a good pub.  Milk churns driven by donkey cart to the dairy; gathering the hay; fair days in small towns. These are mostly gone now, replaced by machines, co-ops, and auctions. 

“Each visit makes me more driven to record this traditional life.  Like those who collect stories from the shannachies, or storytellers, I am collecting moments. For who will remember the old ways?”

Do you know a gallery where Jill Freedman's Irish work could be exhibited? Contact Des Byrne at desbyrnephotos@yahoo.com