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Father Francis Browne, Irish, 1880 - 1960
Title: Quaint Door Latch at Mount Saint Anne's Mount Henry, Laois, 1936
Date: 2019
Medium: Platinum print
Dimensions:
28 x 35.5 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 2019
Object Number: NGI.2019.108
DescriptionBorn in Cork, Father (Frank) Browne was introduced to photography at a young age by his uncle Robert Browne, Bishop of Cloyne. He famously photographed the Titanic and its passengers when he travelled from Southampton to Cobh in 1912. In the 1920s he was an active member of the Irish Salon of Photography. Although based at the Jesuit house at Emo Court from 1930 he travelled extensively in his work as a missionary. Frank Browne might appear to have lived two parallel lives, those of priest and serious documentary photographer, which might have been the source of conflict; but in his case they were closely harmonized. He was a charismatic man and could establish a rapport with most people. His charm can be keenly observed in his photographs. He could put his subjects at their ease and photographed them all; perhaps his photography helped him to communicate with people. He was interested in most subjects – apart from the insides of public houses, there being no such pictures in his oeuvre. Browne photographed at a prodigious rate, averaging four pictures per day up to the last years of his life. Despite the Jesuit vow of poverty, he was able to use so much film because of the help provided by the Kodak company, which supplied him with free film for life after his Titanic pictures hit the headlines. He also wrote regularly for Kodak magazine. However, although Browne received free film the same did not apply to free printing paper. Printing photographs was costly in terms of both time and money and consequently many negatives remained unprinted in his lifetime. For someone who rarely had the opportunity to view his work printed, Father Browne has a distinctly artistic eye and has been compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson who would have photographed long after Browne. His works reveal aspects of Irish culture that have long since disappeared, such as the hanging of mail nags as part of the Travelling Post Office (TPO) rail system and young newsboys selling and delivering newspapers.