The Kennelly Archive represents a lifetime of work by Padraig Kennelly and his wife Joan, bore out of a passion for photography, that has culminated in an in-depth pictorial record of Co. Kerry.
In 1953, a passion for photography lured newly qualified chemist Padraig Kennelly away from the safe haven of the family pharmacy business in Tralee, County Kerry on Ireland’s south west coast. Padraig married his child-hood sweetheart, Joan O’Connor in 1956 and together they opened a photography studio at 6 Ashe Street, Tralee, County Kerry.
By the late 1950s Kennelly’s Photographic Studio was well established in Tralee. Padraig and Joan Kennelly became firm fixtures around every town and village in Kerry.
Their passion brought them everywhere, the school, the church, the pub and the dancehall. Wherever people were playing or celebrating, be it by day or by night, Padraig and Joan were there to record it. The Kennellys covered every sort of assignment from the ordinary to the extraordinary, during times of tragedy and triumph.
Ireland was still in the grip of tradition but the emerging social scene of the 1950s provided a wealth of photographic opportunities for the Kennellys.
Padraig and Joan were well known figures on the dancehall circuit. They would spend no more than 20 minutes in each dancehall on a Sunday night. They did not take names or cash on the night. Those who wanted photos could order them from local sales agents in Dingle, Castleisland and Killarney or at their studio in Tralee.
In 1959, Joan and Padraig purchased an Ilford postcard-processing machine and began photographing towns, villages, hotels and scenic locations throughout Ireland to produce a nationwide line of black and white, real-photo postcards. Kennelly’s was the only company in Ireland at the time printing these types of postcards.
In 1961, Padraig Kennelly began recording film footage. He was one of the first news photographers to be appointed as a freelance stringer cameraman for Radió Telefís Éireann, supplying reports and images to the national broadcaster.
In 1974, Padraig established a local newspaper, Kerry’s Eye in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Padraig set up the newspaper in a response to the local governments failure to tackle the problem of repeat flooding in the town. Various plans were put forward but all were declared too expensive to carry out. By the eighth issue of the Kerry’s Eye, Tralee UDC announced that work had commenced on the construction of a new culvert. Tralee has had no serious flood in the 30 years since.
The first issue of Kerry’s Eye was 12 pages. The weekly newspaper was financed by advertising for the first two years. It remained a free circulation in Tralee until 1980 and sold at a nominal price of 12 pence outside Tralee. The newspaper continues to be printed and published by the family with a weekly circulation of over 26,000. It is the leading independently-owned local paper in Ireland.
Eighty-year-old photojournalist Padraig Kennelly is founder and editor of Kerry’s Eye newspaper. Founded in 1974, it is one of Ireland’s most successful provincial newspapers. He carefully filed the photographs he took over his 50-year plus career.
Joan Kennelly was co-founder of the Kerry’s Eye and became the driving force behind the success of the newspaper. Together, Joan and Padraig captured a candid account of Irish life from the 1950s. Joan died on 30 December 2006.
How We Did It
The Kennelly Archive was set up in 2007 to digitally capture the work of the Kennellys from a carefully filed archive of negatives over a fifty-year period. The objective of the archive is to ensure that this valuable work is protected and shared with future generations.
New imaging techniques and technology have allowed the Archive team to interpret the delicate negatives in a way that was not possible when the photographs were originally taken. A skilled team of digital archivists, retouchers and researchers has allowed the imagery to be protected and to be made available for future generations.
The Archive team, based in Killorglin, Co. Kerry and Mumbai, India used new ‘raw’ digital imaging software and techniques to reinterpret the original negatives, producing tonal quality and detail which was not possible through photographic processes.
Each negative was scanned on a bank of Hasselblad scanners. The original proof books which Padraig and Joan Kennelly became the first source of caption information. This was supplemented by research from local newspapers and the generous assistance of local people in Tralee.
Kennellyarchive.com features a unique facility which allows the public to add caption information to further enrich this valuable source of history.