Northern Lens: Conflicting Images @UlsterMuseum

As part of its Collecting the Troubles and Beyond initiative, the Ulster Museum currently has an exhibition called Conflicting Images: Photography during the Northern Irish Troubles.

In a loose chronology there are 140 images from a variety of photographers.

International photojournalists arrived with increased disturbances. While they may have been new to Northern Ireland, these images are probably most familiar to the gallery viewer, as these are what so many saw in newspapers and television reportage.

But even here it is interesting to see the work of Christine Spengler, acclaimed as one of the first female photojournalists to cover international conflict.

More fascinating is to inspect the clandestine images taken by Loyalists inside prisons, where cameras were forbidden.

On the other side of the wire, there are three images of British Army soldiers on a Belfast tour of duty — these were published in a (military) souvenir booklet.

The work of Bill Kirk features and has a more humanist element, showing ordinary people trying to go about their daily lives in extraordinary circumstances — walking through pedestrian security gates, getting milk during the Ulster Workers Council strike.

Two prints from a more famous French photographer, Gilles Peress, shows occupants of a car at Milltown Cemetery and children at an Army mobile checkpoint.

Meanwhile, there is a plentiful selection by local photographer, Frankie Quinn. This includes photographs from his 2003 interfaces (peace walls) project.

There is a good mixture of documentary photography on display. The overall effect is to provide an interesting insight to the troubled situation at particular moments of time, from the lenses of various perspectives, near and far.

Conflicting Images exhibition is on display from 26 May – 19 November 2017. Admission free.

Conflicting Images: Photography from the Northern Irish Troubles. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Christien Spengler

Loyalist compound images

‘Four Months in Winter’ by David Barzilay and Captain Mike Murray.

Clockwise: Rebuilding Bombay Street, Belfast, 1970; Army Checkpoint, Skipper Street, Belfast, 1972; Milk Distribution in Belfast during the Ulster Workers’ Council strike, 15–28 May 1974; Male and Female Security Gates, Castle Lane, Belfast, 1973. Bill Kirk. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Bogus ‘stop and scare’ checkpoints were set up by paramilitaries to monitor the movement of strangers in their areas. This one was staged by a Loyalist faction in Belfast. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sweltering in the Heat at the Field, Edenderry, 12 July 1983. Bill Kirk. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The power and focus of French photographer Gilles Peress’s work created a landmark in the history of photography when his continuums of images of events during the ‘Bloody Sunday’ shootings in Derry-Londonderry in February 1972 were used as forensic evidence in subsequent inquiries. Gilles Peress. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Images by Frankie Quinn. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Using a Hasselblad wide-lens camera, in 2003 Frankie Quinn embarked on an ambitious project to photograph the extent of Belfast’s peace lines, walls, and interfaces. Frankie Quinn. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Conflicting Images: Photography from the Northern Irish Troubles. Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

About Allan Leonard

Allan Leonard is a peace builder. He does this through his personal and professional vocations, with learning, exploring, and reporting. Allan's specialism is the politics of Northern Ireland, whose people and land he loves and where he has made his home. He believes in the power of the arts for conflict transformation, through vision, sound, and performance. Allan works for a shared society and a #SharedFuture