We were a fairly small group at The Forester pub on May 2 for our second live meeting. The main event was a presentation by Kyun Ngui on the Chris Steele-Perkins book, ‘The Troubles’, featuring photographs from West Belfast in the late 70s, with text written by Paul McCorry. Kyun describes it more fully below. We also looked at an early rough layout of a Zine by Frankie McAllister, taken from her ongoing project Dividing Lines-Artificial Constructs also described in more detail below.
The Troubles by Chris Steele-Perkins. Published in 2020, described by Kyun Ngui: The Troubles comprises images made by Chris Steele-Perkins on several occasions: from his first visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1978 as part of a project looking at inner city poverty in the UK, then the Milltown Cemetery attack in 1988 and finally from 2008 (10 years after the Good Friday Agreement) when he was on assignment for The Times.
Chris Steele-Perkins, as he says from the Introduction, “intended to cover the situation from the standpoint of the underdog, the downtrodden: I was not neutral and was not interested in capturing it so.” By underdog, he meant the Catholic community, whom he stayed with on his first visit.
The images from his first visit captures that community, its leisure, entertainment, homes, fun and funerals. There are also images more familiarly associated with The Troubles like rioting and the military occupation.
He was there at the Milltown Cemetery attack in 1988. During the funeral for three Provisional IRA members killed by British special forces in Gibraltar, an Ulster Defence Association member attacked the mourners with hand grenades and pistols.
In 2008, 10 years after the Good Friday Agreement, Chris Steele-Perkins went back to Belfast on assignment for The Times. He looked up people he had photographed 30 years ago and interviewed them. The interviews are published in the book together with images of them in 2008 and 1978. The interviews give these people a voice. They, like most ordinary people, simply wanted to live their lives in peace and to have equal access to opportunities in Northern Ireland.
The book also includes a commissioned text about growing up in West Belfast by a friend of Chris Steele-Perkins, Paul McCorry (whom he met on his first visit in 1978). The text is atmospheric and anecdotal, rather than analytical.
The strength of this photobook lies in its giving glimpses into the ordinary lives and activities of the ordinary people in a Catholic community and in allowing their voices to speak in the 2008 interviews. Images of The Troubles have been predominantly about the military occupation and the rioting and violence that arose from it. It must be remembered that there are ordinary people, on both sides of the community, who simply want an ordinary life that many of us take for granted.
Frankie’s presentation was a run through of a very early draft pdf spread of a zine on her project ‘Dividing Lines – Artificial Constructs’, a long term project about the northern Irish border post- Brexit and the artificiality inherent in the imposition of externally applied borders to a landscape.
The project aims to depict concepts of disruption, artificiality and division through manipulated landscape photographs from the border country of Donegal.
And lastly, the group discussed our forthcoming exhibition as part of Ealing BEAT. TRICKSTER Remakes the World is still sparking off a lot of ideas and debate from everyone but we agreed we will need to try to start getting a firmer idea of likely images, at least in indicative form, by end May.
written by Frankie McAllister