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The first photographic process was announced to the world in 1839 with the daguerreotype, invented by the Frenchman, Louis Daguerre. The daguerreotype was a direct positive on a silvered copper plate. Fumed with iodine vapour to make it light-sensitive, a mercury vapour was used to create a white deposit which corresponded to the highlights of the subject.

Victorian period. The photograph was mounted on card with the photographer’s details on the reverse. In this example, the photographed has been hand-coloured. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Victorian period. The photograph was mounted on card with the photographer’s details on the reverse. In this example, the photographed has been hand-coloured. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

 An alternative method of photography was introduced that same year by the Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot.  This method, known as Photogenic Drawing, used paper-coated with silver chloride to produce a negative image.  However, passing light through the negative on to a second piece of sensitised paper pressed against it, produced the positive form of the image.  The daguerreotype was the more viable option as it only needed few moments of exposure. The most typical device for this process was the sliding box camera. 

Newry Grammar School 1st XI hockey team photographed in Duffner’s studio. Duffner was the photographer of choice by local schools, sports teams and performing arts groups. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Newry Grammar School 1st XI hockey team photographed in Duffner’s studio. Duffner was the photographer of choice by local schools, sports teams and performing arts groups. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Advances in photographic methods and camera technology continued with various levels of success and Newry soon had its first professional photographer in J.D. Murray who opened his studio in Monaghan Street in 1856. Murray was aware of the growing trends in photography as two years later, he offered stereoscopic photographs which were extremely popular during the 1850s and 60s. This type of photography created an illusion of depth by taking two photographs of the same object with the camera moved a few inches between the shots. Examples of stereoscopic photography were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Murray also offered photography lessons in his studio which was now situated in Kilmorey Street.

In 1862, however, J.D. Murray closed his studio. He was succeeded by G. Wilson who operated out of a photographic gallery in Hill Street. That same year Thomas McKay also opened his own photographic studio. McKay ran a 40-year-old business before retiring to England. 

An example of a Brownie Box Camera in the Museum Collection Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
An example of a Brownie Box Camera in the Museum Collection Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Photography was still considered an expensive process. In 1900 George Eastman from the well-known company Kodak Limited introduced a new roll-film box camera known as the Brownie Camera which sold at a fraction of the price of other cameras. With the change of the century, local developing and printing services became more widely available especially from chemist’s shops. By 1901 Newry had two chemists that offered photographic services, Charles O’Hagan on Hill Street and Irwin & Co, also located on Hill Street.

Renowned photographers William Abernathy and Herbert Allison both opened their new photographic studios on Hill Street in 1903. Abernathy’s studio was in McKay’s former premises. Both photographers’ careers continued to thrive in Newry. Another famous photographer in Newry was Vincent Duffner who opened a studio at 62 Hill Street. Duffner, originally from Dundalk, became well known for his photography work, which included historical events such as the opening of the new Monaghan Bridge in 1929. The business continued up until the 1980s and was popular for family photographs, particularly weddings, and with local organisations. 

A newspaper advert for Newry Camera Club’s annual exhibition in 1967 at which members’ photographs were on show. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.
A newspaper advert for Newry Camera Club’s annual exhibition in 1967 at which members’ photographs were on show. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.

By the 1960s, the use of colour print film was growing in popularity. This type of photography required a new camera design that involved taking small negatives that were retained in the camera. Kodak introduced the Instamatic system in 1963. This simple design proved to be an immediate success for amateur photographers. 

During this time Newry’s Camera Club was founded which allowed local amateur photographers a chance to hone their skills and share their interests. In recent years Camera Club members have set up social media pages showing that photography is still popular in Newry today.

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Joanne Glymond

A photograph by Herbert Allison of the children of Alec Fisher, who set up the legal firm Fisher & Fisher in Newry in 1898. The children, Lex, Dorothy, Margaret and Bertie, were photographed at a local charity bazaar at the time of the First World War. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A photograph by Herbert Allison of the children of Alec Fisher, who set up the legal firm Fisher & Fisher in Newry in 1898. The children, Lex, Dorothy, Margaret and Bertie, were photographed at a local charity bazaar at the time of the First World War. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

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