In these photographs we see the social and political history of Ireland unfolding. There is wealth and poverty, school, home, work and play.
We can see parts of our own childhoods in these photographs. Others belong to a different time, now gone forever.
Many of the images are previously unpublished and provide an added dimension to the written record, revealing how children were perceived and presented visually. In part, the book is also a history of the craft of photography; the ways in which children are portrayed in photography changed as much with the mechanics of camera equipment, as they did with the mores of the society in which they lived.
Through its more than 140 images Small Lives invites you to explore the childhoods of Ireland’s past and to revisit your own childhood. This glimpse into Irish childhood is joyful, nostalgic and, at times, affecting.
Aoife O Connor curated the original Small Lives exhibition at the National Library of Ireland’s photographic archive in 2011. Her main research interests are in material culture and the minutiae of everyday life in the medieval and early modern periods. She lives in Dublin with her husband, and four hens.