On the date of the 109th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic, we remember the importance of the Titanic photographs taken by Fr. Frank Browne SJ. Fr. Francis (Frank) Browne was an Irish Jesuit priest who over his lifetime developed an incredible talent for photography, capturing images of Ireland and the world during the immense changes that came with the turn of the twentieth century.
Fr. Browne’s photography first came to public notice through his record of one of the most prominent events of the twentieth century. In 1912, Frank was gifted a first-class ticket for the first two legs of the maiden voyage of the Titanic. While onboard, he used his camera to photograph the ship and its occupants, creating a fascinating first-hand record of the experience of a passenger.
Frank was offered the cover of his fare for the third leg of the voyage by an American family onboard. He arranged for a telegram to be sent to the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits to ask for permission to take up this offer. A short response was issued: “GET OFF THAT SHIP – PROVINCIAL”. As he left the ship, Frank unknowingly took what would be some of the last remaining photographs of the Titanic. When the ship sank days later, Frank’s photographs were published on the front pages of newspapers across the world.
The Titanic photos form only a small section of the incredible photo-journalism work carried out by Fr. Browne throughout his life. In 1915, Fr. Browne became a World War I chaplain to the First Battalion of the Irish Guards fighting in France and Southern Belgium. During his years at the front line, he visually documented the harrowing experiences and conditions of the soldiers, recording his views as a witness to war.
Fr. Browne was one of the most important and prolific photographers of the twentieth century. Over his lifetime, he is thought to have taken over 42,000 photographs: spanning scenes in Ireland, England, Europe, Australia, and the wider world. His work recorded thousands of images of people and places which today provide an important visual history of Ireland and the wider world in the twentieth century.
Scéal Heritage is proud to be currently working on a new Fr. Browne exhibition with the Office of Public Works, scheduled for opening in 2022 at Emo Court in Co. Laois, Frank’s former Jesuit novitiate and home for many years. The new exhibition will be a chance to celebrate the life of Fr. Browne and recognise the importance of his incredible photographic record.
Please note that all images are the copyright of the Fr. Browne Collection. www.fatherbrowne.com