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 article 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 article will look at some of the work that 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

Baker, S., “The unspeakable”, Source, Autumn 2010, Issue 64, 31. [This essay introduced a selection of Malcolm Craig Gilberts work entitled: “Malcolm Craig Gilbert, Post traumatic exorcism”, Source, Autumn 2010, Issue 64, 31-39.

Carville, J., Paysages innocents, London: Reaction Books, 2011. Farrell, D., Innocent Landscapes, Arles: Actes Sud, 2001.

Farrell, D., The Swallowing Tree, Latent Images Editions, 2014. Farrell, D., “The Swallowing Tree”,

Graham, C., Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography, Belfast: Belfast Exposed/MAC, 2013.

Hewitt, J., Art in Ulster 1: 1557-1957, Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1977.

Hutchinson, W. (ed.), “Imagining Irelands Dead / La mort en Irlande: Le corps imaginé”, Interfaces: Image, Texte, Langage 2004, N° 23.

Kelly, L., Thinking Long: Contemporary Art in the North of Ireland, Kinsale: Gandon Edi- tions, 1996.

L’imaginaire irlandais, Paris: Hazan, 1996.

Lardinois B., Williams, V., Magnum Ireland, London: Thames & Hudson, 2005. (With an introduction by John Banville).

Limpkin, C., The Battle of the Bogside, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972. Loftus, B., Mirrors: William III and Mother Ireland, Dundrum: Picture Press, 1990.

Loftus, B., Mirrors: Orange and Green, Dundrum: Picture Press, 1994.

Long, D., Visual Art and the Conflict in Northern Ireland, Belfast: Arts Council of Northern Ireland, n.d.

McAvera, B., Marking the North: The Work of Victor Sloan, Dublin & New York: Open Air; Impression Gallery, 1990.

McGonagle, D., O’Toole, F., Levin, K., Irish Art Now: From the Poetic to the Political, Lon- don & New York: Merrell Holberton; Independent Curators International, 1999.

McKittrick, D., Thornton, Ch., Kellers, S., Feeney, B., Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2004.

Murphy, Y., Leonard, A., Gillespie, G., Brown, Ch. (eds.), Troubled Images: Posters and Im- ages from the Northern Ireland Conflict from the Linen Hall Library, Belfast: The Linen Hall Library, 2001.

Musso, P., L’imaginaire industriel, Paris: Éditions Manucius, 2013. Seawright, P., “Sectarian Murder” series, available at:

Sloan, V., Selected Works, 1980-2000, Belfast: Ormeau Baths Gallery / Orchard Gallery, 2001. Sontag, S., Regarding the Pain of Others, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003.

Pierwotną wersją czasopisma jest wersja elektroniczna publikowana
kwartalnie w internecie. Czasopismo ukazuje się w sposób ciągły on-line.