The Northern Ireland Troubles: What was there to photograph

Wesley Hutchinson


2018 sees the 20th anniversary of the signing of a Peace Agreement that brought with it a promise of ‘lasting peace’ in Northern Ireland. However, the past has continued to haunt large sections of the population whose lives have been scarred by the violence they experienced. The paper examines how contemporary photographers have attempted to come to terms with the effects of political violence over the years. It does so in relation to how they approach the question of ‘showing’ that violence. Some, like Paul Seawright or David Farrell, for example, prefer an allusive, lateral approach that focuses on the sometimes invisible traces of violence. In contrast, the Belfast-based photographer, Malcolm Craig Gilbert takes a more frontal approach that insists on presenting the viewer with images of trauma, sometimes at the risk of appearing over-explicit. Whatever strategy is adopted – hiding or revealing – the onlooker requires a grounding in the visual codes that Northern Ireland society has developed to communicate with itself. The paper will look at some of the work that has emerged before and during the Peace Process so as to assess its contribution to a broader understanding of the ways the traces of political violence continue to impact on society in Northern Ireland.

Słowa kluczowe: Northern Ireland, Troubles, photography, political violence, trauma

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