DIFFERENT facets of life in South-East Clare over a 60-year period have literally been put into the frame in a major photographic exhibition at Limerick City Hall.
The Street, comprising photographs from The Haselbeck Collection, was officially launched by Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan, TD and Mayor of Limerick Kathleen Leddin recently.
In addition, the museum at City Hall hosts a display of his camera equipment, as well as some archival documents illustrating the professional and personal life of professional photographer Franz S Haselbeck.
It will remain open to the public at Limerick City Hall from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm until the end of February. Admission is free.
The exhibition follows the publication of a book, Franz S Haselbeck’s Ireland, which was compiled by his granddaughter, Patricia Haselbeck Flynn, with 200 selected images from the Haselbeck Collection.
The book followed his career from Dublin to Kerry and concentrates on his work throughout the Mid-West, where he spent most of his career.
Mr Haselbeck worked as head storekeeper and German interpreter in the Shannon Scheme, thanks to his parents, who came to settle in Limerick in the early part of the 20th century.
He photographed the first arrival of equipment for the Shannon Scheme up until the very last, when the German workers left in 1929.
Having taken more than 5,000 shots during his career, Ms Haselbeck Flynn said it was an extremely difficult and time-consuming task to whittle this down to a limited selection for the book and exhibition.
Mr Haselbeck worked as a professional photographer in the Mid-West from 1912 until his death in 1973.
He cycled all over Limerick City and throughout South-East Clare to photograph the important events of his time, including the War of Independence and major construction projects, as well as everyday events around the city.
Today, The Haselbeck Collection is regarded as one of the most important collections of 20th century Ireland, as it chronicles the social, political, military and industrial change through the decades.
Mr Haselbeck’s family moved from Germany, via England, to Wolfe Tone Street in the early 1900s before establishing a sausage and pudding craft business in St John’s Square.
Franz’s artistic temperament saw him pursue a career as a photographer. He served his apprenticeship in Dublin and Paris and settled in Limerick in 1912, where he set up his own studio.
Mr Haselbeck started working initially with wet and dry glass plate negatives and took photographs with a brass mahogany camera. In spite of moving on to cellulose roll film, he kept a back-up copy of all his work, often re-photographying subjects he had taken with new technology.
The exhibition features photographs such as the Shannon Scheme at Ardnacrusha, the RIC at Sixmilebridge on November 30, 1912; RIC Constable Francis Hamill with his sons, Thomas, Michael and Francis, at O’Briensbridge in February 1913 and the Bourke family outside their home at Yardfield, Clonlara in May 1916.
Ms Haselbeck Flynn inherited the collection in 1990 and has offered the use of the collection to her native city. She worked in close partnership with Limerick City Museum and Archives (LCMA) in presenting a selection of her grandfather’s work.
Having successfully ensured its survival, and through meticulous research, the author of Franz S Haselbeck’s Ireland has brought his photographs back for relatives of people he photographed to savour.
She explained, “It was almost as if my grandfather knew that it would be important to the city to record these events, as if he felt I that it was his civic duty. In turn, I felt it to be my own civic duty to try to preserve it for all and have spent the intervening years in that quest.
“This collection of images of early 20th century Limerick and South-East Clare, right though to the 1960s, is both beautiful and fascinating with something of interest for all.
“I am sure my grandfather would be very proud of their use in this wonderful exhibition, especially during City of Culture 2014,” she added.
Ms Haselbeck Flynn said photographs were chosen that represented key moments in social history and from a technical and aesthetic perspective.
“We thought the Bourke family from Clonlara, who were beautifully dressed, looked very well outside their house. They were typical of a family of that time, were very appealing and charming. I have been contacted by relatives of that family who have that photograph hanging on their wall once they saw it in the book.
“A lot of people have found their relatives in photographs and have come back to me to express their appreciation, which is very heart-warming,” she added.
In addition to working for Shannon Development, she conducted sales and public relations work for Fitzpatrick’s Hotel in Bunratty and Killiney. She now works part-time at the University of Limerick as tutor on the Access Transition to University course.
According to Jacqui Hayes, archivist with the LCMA, “Franz Haselbeck enjoyed capturing the major events of his time and through his lens, the people and places come to life. He was very interested in technology, architecture and engineering and his photographs of the great construction projects reflect this passion.
“The Street exhibition is one of the first events on the Limerick City of Culture 2014 calendar and is one of many showcasing the history of the city.
“Patricia Haselbeck Flynn, who holds responsibility for the preservation of her grandfather’s collection, has played a central role in curating this exhibition and without her assistance, we would not have been able to bring this project to fruition,” he said.