Denise Wilson

'Beyond the Domestic': Irish Women Photographers 1853-1913

Year: 2015

Keywords: , , , , , , ,


University of Ulster
(at time of presentation)

Personal profile:

Denise Wilson is currently a part-time lecturer in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at the Ulster University, Coleraine. Between 2010 and 2015 she completed an MRes entitled ‘Constructing the North: Photography and Tourism in early Twentieth Century Ireland’ and a PhD, ‘Beyond the Domestic: Women Photographers in Ireland 1853-1913’ at the University of Ulster in Coleraine



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A popular assumption exists that women’s amateur photographic practices in the nineteenth-century were limited to the domestic sphere. This presentation will offer an overview of my PhD, ‘Beyond the Domestic: Women Photographers in Ireland 1853-1913’, which sets out to challenge this assumption.

The practice of amateur photography in Ireland often involved a negotiation of the political and social turbulence that dominated for much of the nineteenth century. For women however, gender constraints imposed by Victorian ideologies often presented an additional set of negotiations. These negotiations, together with the polysemic nature of the photograph, problematise any close investigation of Irish photography.

Four case studies investigate the hypothesis that, from as early as the mid nineteenth-century, amateur photographic practices allowed some women to negotiate the restrictions of their gender and engage with a photography that looked outwards, documenting a range of other interests beyond purely domestic subjects.

The research raises several key questions on themes of national and cultural identities for Ireland’s women amateurs, and whether or not gender was a key influence in photographic choices. In engaging with photographic practices that demonstrated areas of interest beyond the domestic realm, a further area for consideration that emerged during the research process was whether women amateurs were influenced by pictorial traditions or if their activities were driven by the desire to create objective records.