Two Black & White Masterpieces

I've just returned from one of my regular pilgrimages to Ireland. I like to try to visit at least once a year, primariy, it must be said, for the Guinness (note the definite article). The legends are true: the black and white stuff really is that much better in its homeland (even though they serve it cold).

One of the very best places to sample the Guinness is legendary O'Donoghue's pub in Merrion Row, just off St Stephen's Green in Dublin. I enjoyed my first ever pint of Irish Guinness there, at 11 o'clock one Saturday morning in November 1989 (five minutes after my friend Mike had dumped his awful girlfriend over the phone). We went to O'Donoghue's to celebrate, and had to climb over a traditional folk music band to get into the place: it's that kind of pub.

O'Donoghue's hasn't changed at all in the intervening 12 years: the back room, where I ordered my first Guinness is still dark and dingy and wonderful, its walls covered in framed photographs of anonymous old folk musicians.

Photo at O'Donoghue's
Photo of the photo in O'Donoghue's back room.
(Sorry about the blurring - it's very dark in there.)
The best photograph of all - one of the most remarkable photographs I have ever seen, in fact (and I speak as a person with more than a passing interest in photography) - depicts four middle-aged men standing outside a doorway. If the other photographs in O'Donoghue's back room are anything to go by, these four men must have been folk musicians, but they certainly don't look like musicians to me. Furthermore, the way they're all looking at the camera makes me wonder whether they've ever had their photograph taken before.

A sticky label stuck on the bottom of the photograph presumably once gave some details of who the distinguished gentlemen were, but it has faded over the years and is now completely illegible. If anyone reading this knows anything about this photograph, please email me.

Why do I like the photograph so much? Because it shows that simple snap shots are capable of capturing the decisive moment every bit as well as photographs taken by professionals. Just look at the facial expressions and body-language: the restrained uneasyness of the two men on the right, and the sheer excitement of the two younger men on the left. If I could take a photograph like that, I'd call myself a photographer.

Postscript: The identity of one of the men in the photograph has now been resolved.


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