Street Portrait

The original snapshot is attributed to Dublin’s iconic Street Photographer, Arthur Field: born
in 1901 died 1994. It is estimated that, between approximately 1925-1985, Arthur Fields
may have snapped as many as 200,000 portraits, creating an ‘accidental’ social archive of
monumental proportions (1). However, because of the unsolicited nature of ‘Street Photography’
only a proportion of these images were ever retrieved. The photograph included in this
installation is one such print. In this instance, in one fleeting moment, the camera
captures a life changing moment in a much larger story. In this chance confluence between
two strangers and the lens of the camera, a personal, family story and a broader, national
narrative is archived for posterity. As Roland Barthes reminds us… “Each photograph is
read as the private appearance of its referent: the age of Photography corresponds
precisely to the explosion of the private into the public, or rather into the creation of
a new social value, which is the publicity of the private: the private is consumes as such,
publicly.” Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1980).

Arthur Fields was originally an immigrant. He was son of a Ukrainian refugee from
Kiev in Russia. He was born Abraham Feldman, but he and his brothers all changed their
Jewish sounding name after settling in Ireland due to anti-semitism, prevalent at the
time. In its heyday, before the availability of cheap, point and shoot cameras, there
were many such Street Photographers in European and American cities. You were
given a docket with a number that allowed you to later retrieve the printed image
by paying a small amount either in person or through the post. Field’s particular pitch
was O'Connell Bridge, the epicenter of Dublin, once quite a fashionable thoroughfare.