David Kronn’s collection is raising our sights

David Kronn is gradually donating his invaluable, acquired photographs to the IMMA, says Richard Fitzpatrick.

David Kronn’s collection is raising our sights

COLLECTOR David Kronn has begun periodically donating his photographs to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Kronn, a medical doctor, is Irish but lives in New York. He built the collection over 20 years and will donate until the entire collection is housed in the museum.

“I’m very proud to work with IMMA,” he says. “I’m delighted the collection will stay together. What’s disappointing is when families inherit collections; they often break them into various parts. A collection is more than a sum of its parts.” In the second of his “promised gifts,” in an exhibition called ‘Second Sight’, at IMMA’s Garden Galleries, 50 images will be on display until November. This follows a 2011 show, ‘Out of the Dark Room’. Kronn’s collection in ‘Second Sight’ sits alongside contemporary images from IMMA’s international archives, including work by Amelia Stein and Paul Seawright.

“This exhibition is more subject-driven,” says Kronn. “When we’re looking at Ireland, we’re looking at portraiture and at doubling. We’re looking at photographs from Japan and Mexico. It also represents some of the newer items, mixed with photographs from the older collection. There has also been a little change in direction, because I’ve been working with the museum for several years — I’ve made a slight change in how I collect photographs. Instead of buying one photograph, I’ve been buying a few from the same photographer to make it more interesting for an exhibition. We’re also tending to push towards more emphasis on Irish-based photography, and of looking at photographs of people who have visited Ireland, and also by current, contemporary Irish photographers.”

The photographers who have visited Ireland include Evelyn Hofer, in the 1960s. Eight of her pictures are on display in ‘Second Sight’. They include evocative shots of pairs of people: scowling Mods posing in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square; seminarians in heavy coats and hats horsing along a road on their bicycles; and waiters standing at ease in the dining room of Restaurant Jammet, on Nassau Street. That last photograph was poignantly taken a year before the family-run French restaurant, with its turn-of-the-century murals and marble oyster counters, closed in 1967.

“The portraits are in double,” says Kronn. “It’s sort of a compare-and-contrast situation. I’m interested in portraits that compare two different subjects side by side, or even one person over time, over several years. The idea of showing the passage of time, and changes over time, in a still photograph is interesting.”

The collection includes an arresting group of photographs by Anna Rackard, who is known for her award-winning set design on movies such as Braveheart and The Butcher Boy. Rackard has photographed iconic spots in the Wicklow countryside, the waterfall at Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry, and the view over Luggala Estate. The photographs are based on the aesthetic of John Hinde’s postcards of Ireland, with one exception: in the foreground of the landscape shots — instead of a donkey or a red-haired Irish colleen — are people of varying ethnic backgrounds, challenging the stereotypical view of tourist Ireland.

The American photographer, Doug Dubois’s tableaux of a housing estate in Cobh, Co Cork, is striking. He took his title, ‘My Last Day at Seventeen’, from a comment by Erin, one of his studies. “The photographs here look at the bravado and adventure of childhood, with an eye towards its fragility and eventual loss,” wrote Debois about the four-year project. They provide an interesting counterpoint to the late Belgian photographer Martine Franck’s shots of Tory Island children, from the mid-1990s. Kronn met Franck, who was married to Henri Cartier-Bresson, in Paris. She gave me a book of her photographs taken in Tory Island. I was taken by the whole series, but in particular by the photographs of children. They sort of caught a time of innocence. They’re very interesting and very joyful photographs. It’s like a time capsule of what’s happening to a community that might not be there in the future.”

Kronn is a paediatrician with an interest in genetics. He entered Trinity College to study medicine in 1982, having attended secondary school at The High School, in Rathgar, which had a camera club that prompted his interest in photography. The galleries of New York, where he moved when he was 25, fuelled the passion. Kronn has 600 photographs, some of which he displays on shelves in his apartment in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. They range in price from $500 to $10,000. Most cost $1,000 to $2,000 each.

“I get some tips or I see some work in a book or at an exhibition, maybe, and then I can start doing some more in-depth research online. Most photographs that you would want to know about have their own websites. Once I’ve done that, I’ll go and visit them and see what the photographs are like ‘in person’.

I would frequently go to photo fairs in Paris, London and Los Angeles, where dealers would come with their photographs and you have a chance to see work, and, especially, of some photographers’ work that you might not be aware of, and that’s always exciting — to see what’s new. You can be introduced to work that hasn’t been discovered.

“New York is interesting, because there are a lot of galleries in the city, and you get a chance to see exhibitions by various photographers. It’s also useful to go to museums. In New York, we have MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and Metropolitan Museum of Art. There’s photography everywhere and the interest in photography has grown over the time that I’ve been collecting. There’s more access to photography. In this exhibition, the photograph by the Japanese photographer, Issei Suda, of a woman putting her hands through her hair, is a very interesting abstract object. I was immediately drawn to it, when I saw it at an exhibition. I realised I had to make a decision, there and then, to buy it, and I did. I was very lucky, because... a museum in California had come to see it, but I got to it in time.”

* Second Sight: The David Kronn Photography Collection, is at IMMA, Dublin, until November 9 www.imma.ie

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