The Annie Brophy exhibition of wedding photographs, Wedding Bells, at Christ Church Cathedral is attracting a lot of attention as people identify the subjects and this in turn sets of shared stories and reminiscence. In photos from the 1920s up to the 1970s you can trace styles of clothing and many of the early ones, the brides are in smart dresses, not bridal gowns of white. There is a glorious 1976 shot of a Holden/McMahon wedding with wonderful mutton chop sideburns on Thomas Holden and stylish long hair.
I recognised a few of the subjects and wondered where were they now. Some must be dead and lost only to family memory. I was filled with sad thoughts about all the hopes, dreams and possible fears, some shown in happiness, others no doubt masked in formal pose, the eyes fixed on some mythical birdie. These wedding photos were taken of a happy time, some after wars. Wedding photojournalism is a story telling the style of wedding photography that involves minimal involvement on the part of the photographer.
There was a McCormack photo from 3 Spring Garden Alley, where I grew up and I was saddened that my own mother was no longer alive so I could ask her about the people in the photo. A 1944 shot of a Forte/Delicato wedding reminded me of going for chips with an enamel white bowl and the wonder of hearing Elvis and Bob Dylan in Delicato’s Venetian Cape.
I wondered how had many of these people’s lives turned out; was there the wonder and magic or was there acceptance and disappointment and what about in sickness and in health. I sat in the Cathedral for a while and remembered growing up in that area and of my hopes and expectations. I had come a long way and yet hadn’t gone all that far. Strange how photographs can talk to you and prompt past memories.
Look out for the Rowe/Kennedy photo and see a modern b/w digitised reproduction alongside an Annie Brophy tinted version, beside a Terry Murphy Adobe Photoshop version, beside a painted version by Maeve Doherty, the daughter of the couple in the photo. Then you will think of the many children perhaps just dreamed of by the couples in their wedding finery, starting out on life’s finest adventure and you will experience the power of art and photography.