Publications

The Troubles and Dividing Lines

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


The other side of lockdown

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Sean McDonnell (group member) has published the third in his trilogy of photo books documenting lockdown. They are a terrific record. Below he reflect on the process which is lifted from he blog

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I'm writing this having just published my third selection of photographs from the streets of Ealing over the last eighteen months. I'm anticipating - hoping? - it will be the last, having reached the end of the official restrictions, in England at least, back in July. However I think there's little belief that this is the end of the impact on the mental and physical health of a large part of the population and will be felt by generations to come.

My motivation for documenting the symbols of these times as they unfolded was to find a way for me to comprehend the changes in our ways of living, working, even being. In a world where so much influence is attributed to social media, I've been struck by the intimacy of handwritten notes and signs. Shops have become time machines, fast-forwarding us into the future. Hairdressers going out of business, re-opening as COVID testing centres. Want to buy some shoes? How about an electric bike instead? Simultaneously we've been pulled back in time. Posters for cinema and theatre openings replaced by public information instructions. Take a Jab for Britain. Countered by Cold War cartoons on lamp posts, representing the resistance. The mask has become a touchpaper of division we'll live with for a long time.

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It's been positive to turn these sideways observations into something of tangible benefit for people directly impacted by the pandemic, through making a contribution to Ealing Foodbank from the book sales. It's now set me on a path of working with other members of Ealing LIP to find ways to use photography to enable local community groups to express their own feelings about their experiences.

I was fascinated by my pivot from a lifetime of pursuing a passion for black and white photography on film of people on the streets of London's West End and other cities around the world, to a daily routine of using my mobile phone to record what I literally stumbled across on my morning runs around my local neighbourhood. So where does that leave me now, when I have the freedom to return to those streets? It's important to recognise the ideas and movements that have come to the fore in these febrile times. Rights of representation and the power of privilege are now impossible to ignore in everyday life and certainly in the practice of street photography. It's made me re-think carefully about my own ways of working.

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I've also been struck by the range and brilliance of creative response to these times. I confess to having found it hard to resist buying books and zines, often for good causes, as well as attending fascinating virtual talks and exhibitions about peoples' ways of dealing with lockdown and loss. I'm proud to have been part of Ealing LIP's own contribution through the Ealing Unlocked exhibition. Platforms have been taken by marginalised voices and opportunities seized to innovate and share ideas with new audiences. I hope to see that the channels of production - as well as the work - will not be forgotten too.

Lockdown has been a portent of the pace and impact of disruption that will become more common as we face the realities of social and climate disruption. Photography's response will inevitably draw upon its history of documenting, but I feel its tradition of activism will become more vital. Those shifts in the balances of power can be amongst the positive changes we can take through the other side of lockdown.


Living Lockdown vol 2

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Sean McDonnell has been documenting life in the locale through lockdown. Having published a book of photographs for the first lockdown he has now published a second volume of photos taken between August 2020 and January 2021. You can order here and half the proceeds go to Ealing Foodbank. He presented this to the group at our June meeting.


Living lockdown zine

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Sean McDonnell has turned his collection of photographs taken during lockdown around the streets of Ealing into a zine to raise money for Ealing Foodbank. 
 
The images document a moment in time when the world turned upside down. 
 
Adverts for holidays became a distant dream. TFL promoted riding bikes, not taking the tube. Supermarkets asked us if we really needed to buy more. People's garden walls became display shelves for belongings to give away. Chalk made a comeback for games. Everywhere social distance circles appeared on pavements. Some shops came back to life, others did not.