Delightfully Awkward Portraits Taken In an Old Irish Pub

The world knew Dennis Dinneen for his photographs, but in the small town of Cork, Ireland, most knew him as the local pub owner.

Some photographers traverse the globe in search of inspiration, but for a bar owner in a small Irish town, his inspiration was right at home.

Dennis Dinneen created a body of work from the 1950s to the 1970s that found excitement in otherwise routine daily life. Working out of a studio in the back of his bar, he created a body of work that amounted to more than 20,000 photographs.

An exhibition called "Small Town Portraits" opening on April 21 at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, will showcase the intimate and provincial life from Cork's past. Dinneen's black-and-white portraits have a distinctly vintage look, but the intimate family dynamic has a timeless familiarity.

His subjects often make direct eye contact with the camera, revealing moments that read as shy, bold, or a unique combination of both. The subtle eye contact between subject and camera lens also reveals the level of closeness that Dinneen had with each person being photographed. Some look into the camera with ease, while others are reserved and stiff.

Dinneen began taking photographs to provide images that were used as passport photos and ID cards. His studio Macroom Photographic Services, was quietly tucked behind his bar, Dinneen's Bar, and is still run by the Dinneen family.

David J. Moore is the creative director of the Dennis Dinneen archive and first encountered the photographs as a 16-year-old playing pool at the bar.

"The walls are covered in Dennis’ photographs of local characters and events, and I was instantly intrigued," said Moore.

It wasn't until 15 years later, when Moore heard that Dennis's eldest son was scanning his father's archive, that the enormity of the collection came to light. Of the estimated 20,000 photos taken by Dinneen, Moore has viewed about 6,000.

As Dinneen's archive becomes more visible in the public eye, those who view his work have the privilege of peeking into an intimate portrayal of small town life.

According to Moore, "There are many great studio photographers in photographic history and Dennis’ work is on par with most of them."