A Very English Savage | some loose ends, updates and errata etc.

A Very English Savage | some loose ends, updates and errata etc.

A Very English Savage is aimed at a general reader and, so, breaks many conventions associated with academic publishing – no jargon, no lens, no footnotes and a novel system of referencing. curator.ie goes one step further in introducing an online component on the Ballymaclinton blog site. This picks up any loose ends, errata etc in the book as well as adding additional research that followed the end of writing. It also creates an online space for engagement with readers of the book.

As far as motivation goes, lack of space combined with the complexity of the ground covered meant that some arguments are heavily edited, with the inevitable consequence of loose ends. That prompted this experiment in hybrid, interactive and engaged publishing. After all, that is what Haddon did in the 1890s when he combined journalism and slideshows as a work around to limits on the publication of his photographs and his unorthodox, anticolonial views on the nature of anthropology.

A montage of two portraits of Alfred Cort Haddon and John Millington Synge. Left. Haddon on board the S. S. Brandon in 1885 (detail), with permission Royal Irish Academy © RIA. Haddon is dressed in sailor's outfit and soft hat and stares off camera. Right. Synge in Paris in 1897 (curator.ie collection). Synge is dressed as a fashionable young man about town.

Left. Haddon on board the S. S. Brandon in 1885 (detail), with permission Royal Irish Academy © RIA. Right. Synge in Paris in 1897 (curator.ie collection).

The first ‘loose end’ on the list is, of course, Synge and his photography. That is where this whole project started way back in 2009 and, post publication, remains a very active area of investigation. I propose in A Very English Savage that Haddon’s work in the Aran Islands provided an ethnographic baseline for later work by literary modernists like Synge and cultural nationalists like Hyde. However, the evidence presented was limited to a series of outlines and the Ballymaclinton blog provides the space to publish the notes that furnished those outlines as well additional research carried out in 2023.

A Very English Savage | ‘the head-hunter’ and ‘the playboy will be followed by updates on the importance of the field club movement as a contact point for Haddon, Synge and Hyde. The series will also include posts about the cameras used by Haddon and Synge in the field, along with separate posts on the twenty five photographs feature in the Haddon and the Aran Islands exhibition currently on show in the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Other ‘loose ends‘ include what it meant to become an anthropologist in 2020, when a stand off between a humanitarian tradition of engaged anthropology and an academic discipline of political utility that achieved a level of controversy in the wake of a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement. This part of the series will pick up on what it means to engage with the history of anthropology at a time when the very idea of anthropology is contested and, so, add a critical and contemporary edge to the series. Work on this strand starts on 4 December 2023 with the inaugural, online conference of the History of Anthropology Network.

John Millington Synge took this  photograph of a young man and a boy posing alongside a drystone wall that is traditional in the Aran Islands. Both are dressed in traditional home spun vest, shirt, waist coat and trousers. The man wears rawhide sandals while the boy wears boots. Lilo Stephens identified the man as Martin McDonagh. photo credit: John Millington Synge. 1898, Digital photographs from scanned silver gelatine negatives (Timothy Keefe, Sharon Sutton 2009). Courtesy of the Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin. Alt text by Ciarán Walsh, curator.ie.

John Millington Synge. 1898, Digital photograph from scanned silver gelatine negative (Timothy Keefe, Sharon Sutton 2009). Courtesy of the Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin.

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Twenty five photographs that change the history of anthropology

Twenty five photographs that change the history of anthropology

A. F. Dixon, Untitled, 1890. Digital print from scan of silver gelatine, glass-plate negative (Ciarán Rooney, 2019). The original negative is held in in the School of Medicine, Trinity College, University of Dublin.
© curator.ie

Haddon and the Aran Islands’ is an exhibition of twenty five photographs that builds on Ciarán Walsh’s newly published book on Alfred Cort Haddon’s work as a photographer and anthropologist in Ireland in the 1890s. A Very English Savage will be launched in the Royal Anthropological Institute on 31 October 2023. More at Ballymaclinton.

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‘Haddon and the Aran Islands’ exhibition in Royal Anthropological Institute | London | Oct 2023

‘Haddon and the Aran Islands’ exhibition in Royal Anthropological Institute | London | Oct 2023

A. F. Dixon. 1890. Untitled. Digital print of silver gelatine, glass-plate negative (Ciarán Walsh and Ciarán Rooney, 2019). The original negative is held in the School of Medicine, Trinity College, University of Dublin. © curator.ie.

I can’t tell you all the excursions we made in Aran. it wd be as tedious for you to read as for me to write suffice it to say that Dixon & I left very little unseen & what with sketches & photographs we have a good deal on paper.

A. C. Haddon describes the beginning of visual anthropology in a journal he kept aboard the S. S. Fingal during a survey of fishing ground off the west coast of Ireland in 1890

Previously unseen photographs of the Aran Islands feature in an exhibition Ciarán Walsh and Andrei Nacu curated for the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. ‘Haddon and the Aran Islands’ opens on 15 October 2023 and features twenty five photographs that are organised around Haddon’s first ethnographic account of the Aran Islands, which he presented as a slideshow in Dublin at the end of 1890.

The photographs challenge the idea that anthropologists like Haddon were, by default almost, preoccupied with evolution bracketed by race and colonialism while their counterparts in cultural nationalism and literary modernism became fascinated by Island dwellers. John Millington Synge’s writing is usually presented as the antithesis of Haddon’s science but this exhibition points to a common interest in social documentary photography that manifests a deeper connection between the ‘Head-hunter’ and the ‘Playboy‘.

Haddon and Dixon spent a week in the islands in 1890 and they documented the extraordinary glaciokarst landscape, the people, their way of life, customs, folklore and numerous archaeological sites. On his return to Dublin Haddon used ten of Dixon’s photographs in a slideshow titled ‘The Aran Islands’, the first of six slideshows that included ‘Ethnographical Studies in the West of Ireland’ in the Anthropological Institute in 1894. He renamed this ‘On the People of Western Ireland and their Mode of Life’ when he showed it at a meeting of the anthropological section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science later in the year. Given the high profile this topic gained in the Home Rule crisis in 1895, the change registers a the overlap between Haddon’s photo-ethnography, his anticolonial activism and the Home rule crisis.

Dixon took over fifty photographs while working for Haddon on a fishing survey in 1890. Haddon sent a box of the glass plate negatives to R. J. Welch, a photographer in Belfast, to be processed as lantern slides. On their return, Dixon seems to have put them on a shelf under the ‘Old’ Anatomy theatre in TCD, where they lay undiscovered until 2014. Dixon’s camera was lost, but the camera shown here is a kit-built quarter-plate from the same period and matches the negative holders Dixon used (foreground). In 2019, Walsh commissioned Ciarán Rooney (Filmbank) to print a new set of photographs from digital scans of the negatives (photo Ciarán Walsh).

Haddon summarised his photo-ethnographic experiments in a manifesto published in 1899 and re-issued in 1912, but the document entered modern anthropology as it was becoming what Margaret Mead later called ‘a discipline of words’. Furthermore, a misplaced historiographical focus on Haddon’s career in zoology obscured his interest in art and photography and so masked the beginning of visual anthropology.            

This exhibition brings us back to that beginning: Haddon’s discovery of ‘instantaneous’ photography in the Aran Islands in 1890. It features ten new prints from Dixon’s negatives of Haddon’s slideshow and these are contextualised by photographs from various archives in Dublin, Belfast and Cambridge that point to Haddon’s influences and impact, most of which have never been exhibited before. They include digital prints of the oldest surviving photograph of Skellig Michael (1868), a study of folk dance by Clara Patterson (1893) and a still from Haddon’s film of the last dance of the Malu Zogo-Le (1898). Synge first met Haddon in 1886 and and is represented by a photograph that registers the latter’s influence, which, in turn, indexes Haddon’s extraordinary modernism.

Walsh explores these developments in more detail in an RAI Research Seminar in the Royal Anthropological Institute on 31 October 2023 after which his book Alfred Cort Haddon: A Very English Savage will be launched. For details / registration see the events page on the Institute’s website.

J. M. Synge. 1898. Islanders of Inishmaan. Digital print from scan of glass plate negative (Timothy Keefe, Sharon Sutton, Gill Whelan 2009).  TCD MS11332_28_b courtesy of the Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin

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STORYTELLING FESTIVAL LAUNCHES BUSY AUTUMN SCHEDULE FOR CURATOR.IE

STORYTELLING FESTIVAL LAUNCHES BUSY AUTUMN SCHEDULE FOR CURATOR.IE

Listowel International Storytelling Festival kicks off a busy Autumn and Winter schedule for curaor.ie.

On Thursday 14 September Ciarán Walsh ‘curates’ The Bolex Boys: An Adventure in Storytelling in Film, a public conversation with filmmakers John Lynch & Michael Mulcahy. They created an extraordinary cinematic record of the changing social and cultural landscape of North Kerry from the 1970s onwards.

The Storytelling event marks the beginning of a collaboration with Kerry Writers’ Museum with funding from the Regional 2023 Museum Exhibitions Scheme. The project involves the digitisation of Lynch and Mulcahy’s 1978 film The Way I Remember It, featuring a soundtrack created by Eamon Keane. The film will be the centre piece of The Bolex Boys exhibition which opens in Kerry Writers’ Museum on 19 October.

In the meantime, Berghahn Books (New York and Oxford) will publish Ciarán Walsh’s radical telling of the story of Haddon ‘the Head-hunter‘ in Ireland. The book will be launched in the Royal Anthropological Institute in London on 31 October and Walsh will curate an exhibition of photography for the occasion.

Pages from Dixon photo album © National Library of Ireland

Haddon and the Aran Islands will be constructed around an ethnographic account of the Islands Haddon presented as a slideshow in 1890. Haddon used photographs Andrew Francis Dixon took under his direction. Walsh discovered Dixons negatives in 2014 and commissioned a new set of digitised images in 2019.

This exhibition is the first time this remarkable photographic experiment will have been shown in public. The exhibition will also include a critical review of Haddon’s influences and impact and will include the a scan of oldest surviving photograph of Skellig Michael (1868) and a photographJohn Millington Synge took in the Aran Islands in 1898.

A digital scan from the negative made in 2009 for Walsh’s groundbreaking exhibition John Millington Synge, PhotographerCourtesy of the Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin (2023).

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curator.ie finds oldest surviving photo of Skellig

curator.ie finds oldest surviving photo of Skellig

William Mercer, c. 1868, St Michael’s Church and Cell, digital scan of gelatine silver print. Permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA.

“Skellig provided J. J. Abrams with the perfect location for the birthplace of the Jedi. The challenge of filming Star Wars on a steep rock twelve kilometres out in the Atlantic has added enormously to the mystique of a place with a long tradition of pilgrims scaling its twin peaks. 150 years before Abrams landed on Skellig, Edwin Wyndham-Quin noticed a monastic complex on the first ordnance survey map of the rock and included it in his study of pagan forts, Christian hermitages and mediaeval churches. William Mercer photographed each site between 1866 and 1869 and the discovery in April 2023 of his print of “St Michael’s Church and Cell” provides an opportunity to revisit an adventure in photography that surpasses Abrams’ determination to film on the rock.“

For more on this story go to the Irish Examiner.

circle of texture grey back ground with the words www.curator.ie embossed on it. designed by Ciarán n Walsh