This article aims to provide a new approach to photography in Ireland by shifting focus from ‘art’ photography to the processes and practices of snapshot photography. In employing a new methodological approach to photography, it also provides a new way to examine women's history, exploring photography as part of the tactics women used in order to resist or assimilate state- and Church-led discourses of womanhood, which have often been characterized as both oppressive and hegemonic. In order to explore these themes in detail, this article examines the photography collection of Dorothy Stokes, the largest twentieth century amateur collection held by the National Library of Ireland. I situate Stokes's photographs between two traditions – ethnographic photographs of Ireland and ‘snapshot’ images of holidays and family. Stokes self-consciously made use of these two genres, but also disrupted them. Taking photographs and the making of photograph albums became ways for her to comment on Irish society and her place in the nation and to represent and constitute an oppositional private life.