About Helen MORE


  • Only some of Helen Hooker O’Malley’s later cameras and equipment have been found. We do know that in the 1920s, at the beginning of her photographic career, she was most likely able to purchase the most advanced equipment available. By necessity, the equipment she used on her travels throughout Asia, Europe and the United States. Records from the 1920’s through through the 1940’s indicate she sometimes used collapsible tripods.
  • Helen holds a large plate camera that has not been identified as yet in a 1938 picture taken by her husband, Ernie O’Malley, on a local photography expedition. She also used a box camera with bellows. These accordion-pleat devices were generally attached to large and medium format cameras as a focusing aid. Helen took a photo of her husband and brother-in-law on a photography expedition to Kilteel, Co. Kildare in 1936. The picture reveals Ernie using a camera with bellows. His brother, Kevin is shooting with a much smaller handheld device. Both men use tripods to support their cameras. In a letter to Ernie O’Malley dated February 9, 1940, Helen requests: “bring…down my big plate camera and I could try and get a better photo of the two old men in the convent. My tripod would be needed.”
  • Helen’s son, Cormac, remembers Helen had several Rollieflex cameras in the mid-1950s. These were manufactured in Germany by Franke & Heidecke. Rollieflex first marketed their high-end cameras in 1939. They were popular with professional photographers and photojournalists during the Second World War and after. In later years, Helen continued to use her Rollieflex cameras for transparencies and black and white film.
  • In the 1970’s Helen occasionally used a simple Polaroid Instant camera to facilitate catching an image without having to wait for a formal print to be developed. She used the one-step invention to snap the status of a head she was sculpting, the sitter, or a detail of clothing. These were simply convenient utilitarian photographs.
  • In the 1930s Helen’s equipment supplier and developer in Ireland was T. H. Mason on Grafton Street in Dublin. When she returned to the States in 1950 she used Weiman & Lester Photoservices off Park Avenue in New York City. Weiman & Lester was founded in 1937 by Polish immigrants Henry Weiman and his sister Janka Lester. Henry had come over in 1921 and was a photographer who was fond of the Leica ii camera released in 1932. He was a huge advocate for this camera and even founded the Miniature Photography Club dedicated to the use of the Leica II invented by the Leitz company in Wetzler, Germany. The modern camera was a small handheld device that could be carried in one’s pocket. It eventually replaced the large bellowed cameras that had to be supported on tripod. The Kilteel image of Kevin Malley suggests that Helen may have owned or used a Leica or similar small camera in the late 1930s.
  • As integrated flash mechanisms were not available on the early cameras, Helen was dependent on auxiliary light sources and waiting for specific angles of natural sunlight to properly illuminate her subjects. Some of the 1930s and ‘40s photos from Ireland catch an edge or shadow of Ernie and others holding lighting and specialty lamps for her. We recently found her Sylvania Sun Gun II movie light and stand from 1962.


  • There is no evidence that Helen used glass plates, although her mother, Blanche, and early art teachers may have. Photography was a common past time with women in society circles during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a young artist, Helen traveled the globe taking photographs on several continents. Most of these photographs still exist.
  • After 1930, 35 mm film and more modern format cameras dominated the market. However, both would have been scarce during the Depression years in the United States and throughout “The Emergency” era (or Second World War) in Ireland. Some of the O’Malley’s photo development envelopes indicate they used Verichrome film after its introduction in 1931. Despite its name, Verichrome was a black & white film but did have better tonal balance than the other available film choices. Kodakchrome color film was invented in 1935 by Eastman Kodak of Rochester, NY. Helen frequently summered at her mother’s family’s farm in upstate New York, not far from Rochester and may have been familiar with the film but she did not use it until the 1950s when the color film finally became mainstream and replaced earlier options. Because of its complex processing requirements, Kodakchrome was most often used only by professional photographers.
  • Helen began using Kodakchrome transparency film in the mid-1950s. In 1961,   she was still having some of her American film developed and printed at Weiman & Lester in New York City. Sydney Lewis Greenberg a professional photographer and WW II photojournalist ran the Black and White darkroom there. Lewis would have interacted with Helen regarding her photos and exact instructions for them to produce her prints. Helen did use color film for family photos and those in Ireland in her later years. She died before the popularization of digital cameras.
  • Some of the offices Helen used for the development and printing of her film in Dublin in the 1935-1946 period were T. H Mason on Grafton Street, Dublin and Kodak in her local village of Rathmines. During this time period, Helen and Ernie O’Malley would have their favorite images printed as postcard and Christmas notes to send to family and friends.
  • In the 1960-70s Helen used Robert Dawson for her developing and printing in Dublin. Helen was faithful to NYC’s Weiman & Lester until they closed in the late 1960s. After the mid-1970s when she became tired of wielding her own heavy camera gear, Helen occasionally used a local professional photographer, Robert Baldridge of Greenwich, CT, to take portraits of her heads of sculpture in her studio and to occasionally snap images of the sitter.