Do you have a favourite non-personal photograph?

By non-personal, I mean one that isn’t directly related to your life; photographs of family members, friends, travel (remember travel?).

Even discounting those photographs, there’s still a vast pool of candidates. There are all the amazing pictures taken by photojournalists like Lee Miller. There’s all the awe-inspiring wildlife photography out there. Then there are the kind of posters that end up on bedroom walls, like Robert Doisneau’s The Kiss.

One of my favourite photographs of all time has music as its subject matter. No, not Johnny Cash flipping the bird, although I believe this picture to be just as rock’n’roll.

In the foreground, Séamus Ennis sits with his pipes. In the background, Jean Ritchie is leaning intently over her recording equipment.

This is a photograph of Séamus Ennis and Jean Ritchie. It was probably taken around 1952 or 1953 by Ritchie’s husband, George Pickow, when Jean Ritchie and Alan Lomax were in Ireland to do field recordings.

I love everything about it.

Séamus Ennis looks genuinely larger than life (which, by all accounts, he was). And just look at the length of those fingers! Meanwhile Jean Ritchie is equally indominatable, just as much as part of the story as the musician she’s there to record.

Both of them have expressions that convey how intent they are on their machines—Ennis’s uilleann pipes and Ritchie’s tape recorder. It’s positively steampunk!

What a perfect snapshot of tradition and technology meeting slap bang in the middle of the twentieth century.

Maybe that’s why I love it so much. One single photograph is filled with so much that’s dear to me—traditional Irish music meets long-term archival preservation.

Have you published a response to this? :



I found out about him only this morning so please do forward recommendations if you have them! I sense a giant rabbit hole opening.

# Posted by kirsty on Saturday, April 2nd, 2022 at 5:14pm


# Liked by Tomáš Jakl on Sunday, May 17th, 2020 at 8:35pm

# Liked by kirsty on Saturday, April 2nd, 2022 at 6:22pm

Previously on this day

6 years ago I wrote A web for everyone

The reality of unevenly-distributed browser features isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

7 years ago I wrote 100 words 056

Day fifty six.

11 years ago I wrote The sound of song


13 years ago I wrote Microformation

Microformats go marching on. Now with more options.

14 years ago I wrote Great escaping

Brighton rocks and/or rolls.

15 years ago I wrote Further reading on the nanotechnology of the semantic web

Docs, books, people and technologies.

16 years ago I wrote The ugly American

Paul Graham…. wankah!

17 years ago I wrote A musical baton

I got back from the States yesterday to find that I’ve been handed musical batons by Andy, Richard and Andrea. If I could juggle, I’d put on a show. Instead, I’m going to pass them on like hot memetic potatoes. Here goes…

19 years ago I wrote Client horror stories

I can relate to these tales of terror from the world of web design.

20 years ago I wrote Even more Attack Of The Clones

Jessica and I went to see Attack of the Clones again today. Here’s my (spoiler-free) review.