The photographic collection and archive of the photographer, John Minihan, contains some of the most memorable photographic images from the last century.
The collection comprises of more than 30,000 original photographic negatives and prints, featuring iconic images of Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Francis Bacon, Edna O’Brien and many other literary and cultural figures – from Jimi Hendrix or The Who, to Lady Diana Spencer.
John Minihan was born in Dublin in 1946 and raised in Athy, County Kildare. At the age of 12 he was brought to live in London where he became an apprentice photographer with the Daily Mail. At 21 he became the youngest staff photographer for the Evening Standard. For 35 years he remained in London, returning every year to his hometown of Athy to record the people and their daily lives, producing many poignant images of a way of life that has permanently changed.
In over 50 years as a photographer, Minihan developed a close relationship with many writers. William S. Burroughs once referred to Minihan as "a painless photographer". It was the Athy photographs which presented the opportunity for Minihan to meet with Nobel Prize winner, Samuel Beckett. His friendship with Beckett produced some of the most remarkable photographs ever taken of the writer.
“My film and print collection will now be preserved. Within the context of the University, I will have left perhaps some small legacy and provided a witness to the people and traditions that I have come from. Athy, of course, was my introduction to the great Samuel Beckett, and the telling of that story now rests with the archive at UCC.”
Minihan's work has been exhibited in many exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, 1984; the Centre George Pompidou, Paris 1986; the National Portrait Gallery, London and the October Gallery, London.
For enquiries about use of images from the John Minihan Photographic Archive, please contact: Crónán Ó Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections, UCC Library firstname.lastname@example.org. All images are copyright University College Cork.
John Minihan has a deep affection for Cork and its people having lived in West Cork for a number of decades. The collection acquired by University College Cork includes much supplementary publicity material and ephemera produced using Minihan’s photographs which the photographer has carefully collected during his career including publicity material for many Beckett plays.
UCC Library will list the collection and ensure its future preservation and digitisation as part of the University’s unique and distinctive collections.
According to Crónán Ó Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections, UCC Library, the John Minihan Photographic Collection is an extremely important acquisition for the University. “In over 50 years as a working photographer, John Minihan has photographed many of the cultural icons of our time, producing a remarkable and varied body of work. This collection contains many familiar and surprising images, reflecting John’s life journey as a film photographer. This is a collection of national and international significance, and UCC look forward to preserving and curating the collection for the Irish public and future generations of researchers.”
John Minihan continues to work as a freelance photographer specialising in 'the arts'.
In the summer of 1984, John Minihan met the writer Brian Keenan at the bar of the Europa Hotel. Brian was insistent that John should photograph the poet he kept calling “Joe”. Brian was persuasive and arranged for John to photograph the poet Patrick Joseph O’Connor, otherwise known as Pádraic Fiacc, at The Crown Bar which is directly opposite the Europa Hotel, the next day. As arranged, John photographed Keenan and Fiacc in one of the snugs of The Crown Bar, with its famous stained-glass windows. Back at Pádraic’s flat on the Cromwell Road, John took another photograph of the poet and Keenan. On the mantelpiece was a calendar dated 1984.
In 1986, Brian Keenan is kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon. It was then that John took Pádraic to London where he arranged readings at the Mean Fiddler, Harlesden, and Minogues in Islington to keep the memory of Brian Keenan in the public eye. In 1990, Brian was released and returned to Dublin where he now lives, writing his famous autobiography An Evil Cradling, about his years as a hostage in Beirut. It was the 1991 winner of the Irish Times Literature Prize for nonfiction. Pádraic Fiacc died in January 2019, aged 95, and is buried in Milltown Cemetery..
John Minihan photographed Pádraic Fiacc over a period of almost 35 years. An exhibition of John’s photographs of this almost forgotten Belfast poet will be launched in UCC Library by Patrick Cotter, Director of the Munster Literature Centre, with readings of Fiacc’s work by poets Dean Browne, John Fitzgerald, Gerry Murphy and Mary Noonan. The exhibition ran until 6 June 2022.