FROM the early days of Apple in Cork to the rave nights in Sir Henry’s in the 1990s, a photographic exhibition, entitled ‘The Changing Face of Cork City’, running at Nano Nagle Place until August 31, documents the city in all its glory.
Displayed throughout the grounds of the former Presentation Convent, the exhibition reveals the changing architecture and social life of Cork over the last 75 years. It was inspired by the city boundary expansion which took place in May.
Headings such as ‘Pure Cork’, ‘Shop Fronts,’ ‘Sports,’ ‘Bridges,’ ‘The River Lee,’ ‘Pubs and Clubs’ and the ‘Jazz Festival’ will draw the public in to examine the various photographs and maybe even spot themselves in them.
Some of the photographs are unpublished. Some are drawn from the archives of The Irish Examiner, The Echo, the Cork City Archives and the collections of photographers, Anthony Barry, Karl Grabe, Joe Healy, Donnacha O Caoimh, Clare Keogh and Jed Niezgoda.
They include a photograph of a fur coat-clad Ella Fitzgerald arriving at Cork Airport for the Cork Jazz Festival. There is also a photograph of The Sultans of Ping playing in the Savoy.
“We had a couple of other famous faces that visited Cork, including the Rolling Stones who played in the Savoy in the 1960s, but we’re not using them as we found better quality Cork images,” says education and outreach officer at Nano Nagle Place, Sorcha O’Brien.
One of the photographers whose work is on show is described by Sorcha as “the amazing Karl Grabe.” His family owned a jeweller’s shop on Oliver Plunkett Street. Interested in photography since he was a child when he bought a plastic camera for ten shillings, he has been taking photographs since the 1980s.
The Nano Nagle Place programme features one of his images on the cover. It’s of three teenage girls, two of whom are wearing colourful ra-ra skirts, the other in a drindl skirt, walking in the city in 1983.
Joe Healy, a founding member of the Carrigaline photographic Society in 1986, who used to work in the image department of the Irish Examiner, has a particular interest in local history.
“He has old images of Cork which we’re using. One of them is a gorgeous image of two ladies, one with a walking stick, walking down the lane to the Oyster Tavern (before it closed down and was subsequently revamped.)”
The photographs of Sir Henry’s were taken by the club’s photographer, Luke O’Brien. There are also photographs by Donncha Ó Caoimh.
“He has taken contemporary images of Cork city including the English Market and O’Connell’s fish counter. The furthest we go back is 1933. We have an image from that time of the Coal Quay. We like to do different time periods and there are also contemporary images of the Coal Quay. We want to engage young kids so that they might spot the difference in old and new pictures of the same place.”
There is a photograph, taken in 1935, of the outdoor Lee Baths on the Carrigrohane Road. It looks quite crowded, full of young people swimming and splashing.
Photographer, Jed Niezgoda, originally from Poland, is a photographer and architect, living in Cork.
“We’re using one of his photos taken on the South Mall. A sign can be seen which says ‘Expected flooding of the South Mall.’ The flooding has happened. You can see a cyclist going through high water in a deluge.”
In the sports section, Sorcha says that the aim wasn’t to just focus on the GAA.
“We have included the two O’Donovan brothers who were in the Olympics and we have included a gorgeous picture of a girl called Claire Dunne, a rhythmic gymnast who competed in the Special Olympics in 2018. We have football images from the Examiner archive. And we have included the ladies camogie team because we think it’s important to show the women’s side of sport.”
There are also photographs from the Anthony Barry Photographic Collection and from Cork-based Clare Keogh who studied photography at Central St Martin’s in London.
For the exhibition, the organisers have enlisted the expertise of students from The Cork Centre of Architectural Education which is located in the grounds of Nano Nagle Place. A competition was held to see if first year students could design the units on which the photos are displayed.
There were three winners; Laura Clarke, Anisha Yuhii and Ben Kingston. The units that they designed have been built by Benchspace.
“This is a massive deal for the three students. Units are stacked on top of each other. They stand at over six feet. They’re in the front plaza and in the grounds at the back. They are weather proof and weighted and there is some text explaining about the exhibition. There are maps on the ground outside, showing the different boundary extensions of Cork.”
It is hoped the exhibition will bring people into Nano Nagle Place who have never been there before. As programme manager at the centre, Danielle O’Donovan says; “The interpretive framework of the exhibition is change in the city (including its multiculturalism.) We have text about that and how Cork in the 1960s and 70s was really thriving, even when recession was hitting Dublin and other cities. Cork seemed to get away with it. We have a whole section on how we worked. It starts off with heavy industry. And then you see Apple. This huge change was painful. Karl Grabe has some great pictures of the production line at Apple.”
Danielle says that the way Karl was located “was pure Cork. We have this amazing volunteer called Kay Dunne. She knows everybody in the city. We were saying we’d love to meet this amateur photographer, Karl Grabe. He had shied away from putting his photos online because they would quickly be gone and their attribution would get lost too. We didn’t know how to contact him.
“Kay told us that her friend worked in Karl’s father’s shop. She rang the friend who said she hadn’t seen Karl for ages. This was during the Lifelong Learning Festival.
“Anyway, Kay’s friend walks into one of the talks at the festival the next night and who is sitting in the front row but Karl Grabe! He gave us a ring. He works as a computer scientist and is digitising his archive. There’s a photograph taken by his father, Wolfgang, of kids queuing up for a single slide in Fitzgerald’s Park.”
There is a whole programme of events taking place around the exhibition. They include a series of concerts curated by Pat Conway, formerly of the Lobby Bar. Ger Wolfe will play in the Goldie Chapel at Nano Nagle Place on July 12, Mick Hanly on July 19 and Greenshine on July 26. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. There will be guided tours around Nano Nagle Place. It will all go towards raising the profile of the centre.
On Culture Night last year, some 2,000 people came through the doors.
“We’d love the place to be used all the time. Since Christmas, 1,000 children have come here.”
Danielle and her colleagues are still getting used to a recently purchased footfall counter “which is registering 35,000 people since we put it on three months ago.”
The award-winning Good Day Deli Café in the grounds of Nano Nagle Place is always busy.
Nano Nagle Place is an oasis of calm and a destination for the fascinating history of Cork city and its famous educator. The photographic exhibition brings it all together.
The exhibition ‘The Changing Face of Cork City’ runs until August 31.
See Nano Nagle Place’s full Summer Programme on https://nanonagleplace.ie/nanoevents/