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Inis Oirr, Aran Islands

Evelyn Hofer's timeless compositions in Ireland

Celtic-cross.jpgEvelyn Hofer, a photographer whose striking compositions in Ireland, died on Nov. 2 in Mexico City where she lived. She was 87.

Working with a cumbersome four- by five-inch viewfinder camera, Ms. Hofer conjured up carefully composed and timeless images.

 She remained unrecognized by most critics and curators, and never received a museum show in the US. Writers admired her and many collaborated with her, including Mary McCarthy, V. S. Pritchett and Jan Morris did in several highly regarded literary portraits of Dublin, Florence, London, New York,  and Spain.

"She has an extraordinary eye for subtle differences in the quality of light and in the details of texture and shape, whether her subject is the Duomo in Florence or two young waiters in a Dublin restaurant, and she has extraordinary patience, too, in capturing from every subject the exact image she intends to wrest from it," the art critic Hilton Kramer wrote. "She is, in my opinion, one of the living masters of her medium."

The travel format led to "Dublin: A Portrait" (1967), as well as in "The Presence of Spain" (1964), by James Morris, and "The Evidence of Washington" (1966), by William Walton and "New York Proclaimed" (1965).
Dublin_girl.jpg    Girl with bicycle, Dublin 1966

One of Hofer's most famous portraits, a group of gravedigger in Dublin in 1966

PKavanagh.jpg        Patrick Kavanagh photographed by Evelyn Hofer in O'Brien's Pub

Dorothea Lange in Clare, 1954


Patrick Halloran, Tubber fair County Clare 1954

Halloranfarm.jpgHalloran Farm

Haloranfamily.jpgHalloran Farm

womenpearls.jpgWomen stringing pearls 1954


Ennis doorway, 1954

Heading to Mass, 1954


Rare Dorothea Lange photos of County Clare


Two photographs take in County Clare around 1954 by the American photographer Dorothea Lange, known as the "greatest documentary photographer of her era."
These photos are from an extraordinary collection at the Oakland Museum in California.
In 1954 Life Magazine took up a Lange proposal to photograph County Clare and she went there with her son Dan.

Man_mug.jpgLange sought out in Ireland the community created by village life and family farming and she implicitly compared the rooted poverty of Irish country people with the uprooted poverty of migrant farm-workers in dust-bowl America.
She saw Irish country people as happy and stable even as their children went barefoot to school. Somewhat idealised, and unrealistic her subjects seem immune to the economic turmoil all around.

LANGE 1.jpg

Migrant Mother
This is Dorothea Lange's most famous photograph entitled: "Destitute peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children. February 1936."
The historian Linda Gordon has just published a wonderful biography of the iconic photographer of the Depression entitled:
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits  (W.W. Norton, $35)
Lange began her career doing society portraits
in San Francisco, but a growing radicalization led her to photograph the dispos-
sessed, the unemployed, and the inmates of the American-Japanese intern-
ment camps. This biography is also a thoroughly researched cultural history of
America from 1920s Bohemian California through the post-War period


Clare County Library's Local Studies Centre (The Manse) holds contact prints for c. 2,100 Dorothea Lange Irish photographs gathered in four volumes, the bulk of which are of County Clare. The centre also has a copy of "Life" Magazine, 21 March 1955 ("A rural world in Ireland. Dorothea Lange takes a sympathetic look at the parent stock of a far-flung race as it lives on calmly amid the culture of a bygone day"); the 1996 book "Dorothea Lange's Ireland" (London: Aurum Press); and a DVD copy of the documentary film, "Photos to Send" by Diedre Lynch.