A.M. Duggan-Cronin (1874-1954)
Alfred Duggan-Cronin was born on 17 May 1874 at Innishannon in Ireland. In 1897 he came out to South Africa and started his career with De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. In 1904 he bought a box camera and began taking photographs. He taught himself the techniques and the first indigenous people he photographed were migrant workers in the compounds.
A realisation and awareness that their traditional way of life was rapidly changing led Duggan-Cronin to contemplate going out into the field to capture the people in their homes, and their way of life before it was lost completely or changed irrevocably. Miss Maria Wilman, the first director of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, encouraged him in this enterprise and assisted with obtaining funding. Several later expeditions were funded by the Carnegie Corporation.
In 1919 Duggan-Cronin made his first expedition which was to the Langeberg (in the Northern Cape), where he photographed the San people living there. Over the next twenty years he would undertake on average two journeys a year to many parts of South Africa. He also travelled to the neighbouring countries: Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. In all he clocked up over 128 000 kilometres on these travels and took over 6000 photographs.
Duggan-Cronin died in 1954 and is buried in Kimberley. His collection was left to the people of Kimberley, and is in the care of the McGregor Museum. It is housed at the Gallery which bears his name. Made available through the beneficence of De Beers the Duggan-Cronin Gallery was opened in 1938, serving as both a place to display his work and as his home. When General J.C. Smuts visited the Gallery he remarked that: ‘you can die now Cronin, your monument is raised’. Duggan-Cronin replied: ‘I would like to live a little longer to enjoy my monument, General, if I may!’. (http://www.my-kimberley.co.za/get%20busy/articles.php?id=127, 2010-09-03)