Blog post

Living with Pride: photographs by Christopher Robson

Documenting LGBTI+ life and activism in Ireland during the 1990s and 2000s

colour photograph of a large rainbow flag / banner on a city street with a church in the background

Many of us will remember jubilant scenes from Ireland in 2015 when it became the first country in the world to vote for same-sex marriage through a referendum.

However, Ireland's journey to this landmark moment was long. It was only as recently as 1993 that Ireland decriminalised homosexuality. Particularly through the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s, many activists and campaigns fought for equality.

colour photograph of group of people celebrating in front of building, holding flags and banners with text that is not legible in the photograph

A recent exhibition at the National Library of Ireland has explored this time in Irish society. Living with Pride: Photographs by Christopher Robson documents LGBTI+ life and activism in Ireland during the 1990s and 2000s, and tells the story of Christopher Robson, who captured – through his personal photography – much of Ireland's remarkable journey toward LGBTI+ equality.

Christopher Robson was a central figure in Irish LGBTI+ activism, helping found the Dublin Lesbian and Gay Men's Collectives, Gay Health Action – the first AIDS organisation in Ireland – and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

black and white photograph of two men who are hugging

He played a key role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and was pivotal in the introduction of civil partnership and the enactment of State equality legislation. His photographic collection of around 2,000 slides, which capture the LGBTI+ experience at a time when prejudice, discrimination and inequality was commonplace, was donated to the Library in 2015 by Christopher's civil partner, Bill Foley.

Introducing the exhibition, Christopher Robson's civil partner, Bill Foley said: 'Christopher regarded his contribution to the drive towards full equality for Irish LGBTI+ people as among the proudest and most significant achievements of his life. Living with Pride shows our community at its best: joyful, defiant and united.'

a drag queen wearing pink poses in front of a pink parade float with people wearing pink clothes
Close up of two women wearing white t-shirts, one holds a rainbow umbrella, the other has small rainbow flag and red AIDS awareness ribbon on her t-shirt

Photographs in Living with Pride include LGBTI+ protests in Dublin, Paris and New York, as well as seminal moments in Ireland, including Pride parades and law reform in 1993.

colour photograph of a number of people on a pride march in a city street
colour photograph of people on a pride march carrying a large rainbow banner

The exhibition - on display in Dublin since June 2021 - will close on Sunday 21 November. It can also be viewed online, giving visitors a chance to learn more about a man who captured and contributed to Ireland's remarkable trajectory for LGBTI+ equality from decriminalisation and a softening of public attitude to the decisive public vote in the marriage equality referendum in 2015.

Living with Pride was co-curated by Bill Foley, Christopher's partner, and Carol Maddock and Nikki Ralston of the National Library of Ireland. The exhibition was accompanied by a vibrant and varied online events programme which can be enjoyed here.

LGBTQ+ Ireland Photography