Hugh Doran (1926 – 2004) was an amateur photographer of rare talent. A native of Dublin and a printer by profession who spent his working life in Arthur Guinness & Co., Hugh’s interest in photography began as a teenager. He joined the Photographic Society of Ireland in 1949 and was from the mid- 1950s a regular contributor to – and medal winner at – the Society’s exhibitions. His photographs were also included in exhibitions in Berlin, Bordeaux, Bermuda, San Sebastian and Vienna.
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Hugh’s camera focused on a variety of subjects from portrait to landscape, but two themes stand out –architecture and his native city. Hugh’s interest in architecture was long-standing. He travelled extensively in Ireland and abroad, compiling albums of these trips which focused very much on the buildings he had visited. His eye for detail was precise and his composition outstanding. In 1959, Desmond Guinness asked Hugh to photograph Irish country houses – specifically those with curved wings – for an Irish Georgian Society exhibition. A new interest was sparked. Over the succeeding decades Hugh photographed many of the grandest of Ireland’s houses, charming owners to allow him to capture not only the stately exteriors but also the fully furnished interiors. These photographs have gone on to illustrate and enhance numerous publications on Irish country houses.
Hugh’s Dublin photographs are perhaps more personal. They capture a Dublin now vanished, a city free of cars and laced with shadow, an old city, faded certainly yet still as full of life as dereliction. Portrait and architectural photography combine in images which reveal as much of the personality of the city as its fabric.
In accordance with his wishes, Hugh’s widow Kitty transferred his photographs to the Irish Architectural Archive in 2005. The Hugh Doran Collection is without question one of the single most important acquisitions of photographs in the Archive’s thirty year-history. This exhibition, made possible through the support of John Sisk & Son Ltd and the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism, merely skims the surface of the collection. Hopefully however it provides a flavour of its contents as well as an indication of its quality.