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September 13, 2022

The Earliest Color Photos of Ireland Taken by Two Frenchwomen

These stunning pictures, taken by Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon-Alba during their 2-month-long trip to Ireland in 1913, are believed to be the first color photos of Ireland ever taken.

Galway, 1 May 1913.

The pair was part of a worldwide project titled “The Archives of the Planet.” French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn created the project to compose a “kind of photographic inventory of the surface of the earth as it was occupied and organized by Man at the beginning of the 20th century.” His project captured some of the first color photographs taken in Ireland, the United States, Norway, Vietnam, and Brazil.

Black and white photography had been around for decades, but color photography was cutting-edge technology at the beginning of the twentieth century. The women, who were novice photographers, used this new technology developed by French inventors called autochrome color plates.

Main Ní Tuathail, a 14-year-old girl from Claddagh wearing a traditional Claddagh dress, Galway, 26 May 1913.

Through the lenses of their Autochrome Lumière cameras, these adventurer intellectuals documented priceless moments of remote villages, Irish rural settlements, lives of locals adhering to traditional Gaelic values, ancient Celtic monuments, prominent Christian sites, green landscapes, cemeteries, street settings from Galway city and much more.

 Take a trip back in time to 1910s Ireland through these 25 stunning photographs:

Traditional Irish knitwear, An Spidéal, Galway, 1 May 1913.

Mother and child outside a dwelling, Claddagh, Galway, 25 May 1913.

Selling fish at the port of Galway, 26 May 1913.

Round tower, Roscam, near Oranmore, Galway, 27 May 1913.

Mother of seven making fringes for knitted shawl, Galway, 29 May 1913.

Man cutting turf, South Connemara, 29 May 1913.

Ross Errilly Friary, Headford, Galway, 29 May 1913.

House in a gorse bog, South Connemara, 29 May 1913.

“Outside car” on the route from Headford to Claregalway, 29 May 1913.

Weaving, An Spidéal, Galway, 31 May 1913.

Isolated house, South Connemara, Ireland, 31 May 1913.

Turf Transport, An Spidéal, Galway, 31 May 1913.

Two fishermen and a boy, An Spidéal, Galway, 31 May 1913.

Cemetery and round tower, Clonmacnoise, 2 June 1913.

Glendalough, June 1913.

Currach transporting turf, River Shannon, near Athlone,  June 1913.

Athlone Castle, June 1913.

Eel fisherman, Lough Ree, Athlone, June 1913.

Woman and abandoned dwelling, Lough Ree, North Athlone, June 1913.

Round tower, Glendalough, June 1913.

Two coracles on the Boyne, Oldbridge, June 1913.

Two men making coracles, River Boyne, Oldbridge, June 1913.

Mansion of the Conyngham family, Slane, June 1913.

(via Musée Albert-Khan, Argumundo, Irish Central)


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