Famine, Poverty, Migration & Irish Visual Culture

Image: 19th-century satirical cartoon

The social crises of 19th century Ireland — famine, displacement, and mass migration — coincided with the development of new forms of mass visualisation. This research, undertaken by Emily Mark-FitzGerald, addresses how Irish poverty was made visible as consequence of these technologies that develop rapidly across the span of only a few decades, including illustrated periodicals, photography, the magic lantern, stereoscopy, and early forms of cinema, for both domestic and diasporic audiences.

Eviction, for example, becomes a newly ‘seen’ subject that was pictured in these multiple media simultaneously, one that reached a vastly expanded audience in the 1880s, and also sparked contemporary debates about the authenticity and use-value of visual evidence with respect to the ‘Irish Question’. 
Who were the producers and consumers of such images? What modalities of vision did they develop, and respond to? The intermediality of representation (visual and textual) is an overlooked dimension of how Irish poverty was viewed and understood in the 19th and early 20th century. Overlaps in iconography, producers, consumers, and systems of representation make it impossible to consider any single medium in isolation from each other, and have shaped a schemata of seeing the Irish poor which continues to exert influence today.

Emily Mark-FitzGerald (co-ed.), The Great Famine and its Legacies: Visual and Material Culture, Liverpool University Press (forthcoming 2017).
Emily Mark-FitzGerald, 'The Persistence of Vision: Seeing Eviction in the Nineteenth Century', in Creating History: Irish Historical Painting. Dublin: National Gallery of Ireland/Irish Academic Press, 2016.
Emily Mark-FitzGerald, 'Photography and the Visual Legacy of Famine', in Memory Ireland Volume 3: Memory Cruxes: The Famine and The Troubles. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2014.