Man on the Bridge
November 2014 –
Gallery of Photography is delighted to present this unique exhibition celebrating the work of legendary Dublin street photographer Arthur Fields. Arthur took hundreds of thousands of photos of normal people throughout his long career but no negatives survive. The Man on Bridge project has gathered a collection of photographs taken on Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge and O’Connell Street from the 1930s to the 1980s.
This impressive, must-see installation includes a massive billboard-type display of every image so far contributed to the Man on Bridge archive – giving visitors the chance to see in one sweep over 3,400 images spanning 50 years of Dublin street life and style. Alongside this central installation is a selection of framed highlights with accompanying captions and stories from the families themselves; video interviews with experts from the fields of and a searchable database installation where visitors can view their images as large projections.
Each image has been sourced from members of the public. They have been uncovered in family albums, shoeboxes and breast pockets and added to the archive. Individually these collected images are cherished family objects; collectively, they form a unique record of Dublin city, as it was lived in and as it was enjoyed over a fifty year period. The Man on Bridge project is an ongoing photo-collection campaign and you can add your own photo by visiting www.manonbridge.ie
About Arthur Fields: Born in Dublin in 1901 to Jewish-Ukranian emigrants, Arthur Fields began life as Abraham Feldman. His parents had fled religious persecution in their native land and Arthur, along with his siblings, changed his name to integrate better into Irish society at the time.
He began his working life as a tailor, and it was not until the 1930s that Arthur Fields tried his hand as a street photographer. He was not alone. There was a vibrant community of photographers who all provided the service of capturing special moments on camera for the masses. The main thoroughfare in Dublin was O’Connell Bridge leading onto O’Connell Street. It was the place to be seen and naturally the place to be photographed. This became Arthur’s patch and he quickly excelled.
For Arthur, taking photographs was not about flair, prestige or, indeed, art. Nor did he realise the unique photographic record of social life that he was creating. For Arthur, it was a job and by all accounts it was a job he was obsessed with. At the time, cameras were beyond the reach of most and providing that service, Arthur worked day and night in all weather conditions, 365 days a year for over fifty years. This work ethic is at the heart of why Arthur became a Dublin legend and part of the fabric of the city where he became simply known as the ‘The Man on the Bridge’. As a result of his constant presence at this location, it was commonly said that the statue of Daniel O’Connell guarded O’Connell Street but Arthur Fields guarded the bridge.
Behind the scenes was Arthur’s wife, Doreen, who played a vital role in creating the photographs. Arthur might have taken them but it was Doreen who developed the photographs under the stairs at home. She also looked after the administration, ensuring that people received their photos, which was no mean feat. Although celebrating one Dublin street photographer, this book is also a testament to Arthur’s wife and all the other street photographers who stood and photographed passers-by on O’Connell Street, including Con Keane, Danny Delahunty, Harry Cowan, Max Coleman, John Quinn and many others. Undoubtedly, some of their photos spill into this book.
By the end of Arthur Fields’ career in the late 1980s, the world and, indeed, Dublin had completely changed. Arthur had adapted during the time also and had made the move to Polaroid technology, providing instant colour photographs. By this stage, however, he was the last working street photographer in the city, a relic of a different time in the story of Dublin. When Arthur retired in the late 1980s, it was not due to lack of desire on his part but ultimately for health reasons. On 11 April 1994 Arthur passed away and the ‘The Man on the Bridge’ finally faded from view.
A book accompanies the exhibition priced €25