In September 1962 Irish photographer Alen MacWeeney returned to Dublin from a year in New York, working for the acclaimed photographer Richard Avedon. Equipped with a 35mm Leica camera, he went onto the streets of the city to engage with life directly as he saw it. Almost 60 years later, during the pandemic lockdowns and isolation of 2020, that we all experienced, MacWeeney’s photographs of Dublin 1963 were shared by his partner, Pesya, with a group of online Dubliners.
The result was a virtual explosion. An instantaneous torrent of observations, comments and opinions filled the screen. As more photographs were posted, the online community scrutinised every incidental detail. Responses bristled with Dublin humour. The people and locations that MacWeeney had captured were recognised and disputed. Discussions and recollections drew in multiple participants, the online exchanges eliciting wonder, incredulity, nostalgia, warmth – and sometimes anger. This previously unseen series of photographs had come to life again in the unexpected confinement of a pandemic to grace a multitude of new lives through a bond of shared interest and humanity.
Now all photographs in the series have been published with a selection of these online comments by the community in a book by Alen MacWeeney entitled, My Dublin 1963, My Dubliners 2020. The book is about the power of photography in creating a conversation that unites the community, and transports the viewer back to another life. It is local history. It is about life in a Dublin of the past being brought back into the present in 2020 by today’s Dubliners, “straight from the horse’s mouth”.
For MacWeeney, “Reading the reaction of Dubliners in lockdown to seeing the people or places they knew as children, – mothers and fathers, relations and friends, coming or going to work, playing in the streets, or on a date, waiting for the bus, or just being there as I was at the time, was electrifying; a pure joy to read their responses.”
The Alen MacWeeney Archive is held by University College Cork.
Alen MacWeeney, is one of the world’s leading photographers. Born in Dublin in 1939, at sixteen years of age he worked as a press photographer for The Irish Times. A London editor from Vogue saw his work few years later and said, if you photograph someone famous, I’ll get you a job at Vogue. Orson Wells, then performing in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre agreed to his request to be photographed. This chance opportunity led him on to other theatre, portrait, and fashion assignments in Dublin for several years. On moving to New York, he continued his professional career as an assistant to the American fashion photographer and portraitist Richard Avedon. This experience began his extensive career in commercial and editorial photography for such newspapers and magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. His photographs of Irish Travellers are internationally renowned. MacWeeney’s photographic archive was acquired by University College Cork.
‘Bloody rollers on Saturday night. You’d have a pain in your head from sleeping in them.’
‘By the looks of that picture I bet he was catching smoked cod.’
Publisher: The Lilliput Press, Dublin.
Printed by: Verona Libri, Italy.
89 B&W photographs printed in tritone.
Trim Size: 23.8 x 29.8 cm
212 pages on GardaPat Kiara 135 gsm
ISBN 978 1 84351 82 66
Archival pigment ink print on Hahnemuhle Photo-Rag Baryta 315gsm paper