A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland

  Friday 21 June –
Sunday 1 September 2019

Carrowmore Races, Co. Mayo 1938

Gallery of Photography Ireland together with the National Photography Archive are presenting two complementary exhibitions devoted to the work of American artist, Helen Hooker O’Malley (1905-1993) Ireland was Helen’s most important source of inspiration for over half a century. Her decades-long love affair with the landscape, history and people of Ireland was ignited by her tumultuous relationship with revolutionary and author, Ernie O’Malley.

Having met Ernie in the US in 1933, Helen braved family opposition to elope and marry him in London, 1935. The couple established homes in Dublin and Mayo and had three children together. Despite divorcing Ernie in 1952, Helen’s love of Ireland endured undiminished.  


‘A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland’ book available here

Turf Cutting Competition, Bog of Allen, 1937

Helen photographed her life in Ireland from 1935 onwards. Here in the Gallery of Photography, we present her early work – explorations made during expeditions with Ernie into the Irish landscape, her observations of Irish rural life particularly in County Mayo, and her portraits of artists and friends. We also include a fascinating record of her travels in Russia and East Asia.

The NLI’s collection of Hooker O’Malley’s photographs dates largely from the mid 1970’s, when she found a new freedom, enthusiasm and energy to pursue her art. These works demonstrate a mature creativity honed over a lifetime’s involvement in the visual arts. The exhibition includes iconic Irish landmarks, such as Croagh Patrick, portraits of Helen’s artistic circle, including Paddy Moloney and Mary Lavin, in addition to spontaneous images of everyday life in 1970’s Ireland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book featuring over 120 photographs and texts by Cormac K.H. O’Malley and Luke Gibbons.

A Modern Eye continues at the Gallery of Photography until September 1st, and at the National Photographic Archive until November 2nd 2019.

Admission to both venues is free.


Exhibition and Book Launch: Thursday June 20 at 6.30pm
Public Tour, guided by Cormac O’Malley: Sunday June 23 at 2pm
Guided tours are available every Wednesday at 1.15pm during the run of the exhibition.

Japanese Woman in Traditional Dress, 1935

Public Tour, guided by Cormac O’Malley

Public tour by Cormac O’Malley

Buy the book A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland here

A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland

Gallery of Photography co curator Tanya Kiang

Cormac O’Malley launching A Modern Eye: Helen Hooker O’Malley’s Ireland

Click image to read The Irish Times review, 2nd July 2019