IN THE FRAME
Burning Bus on Donegall Road, 1978.
“In his paper Vision of the Gods: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Photography (2003), American artist, philosopher, Ali Hossaini writes, “Photography is an evolutionary phenomenon, not a fixed process, and it has drastically altered society at each stage of refinement.”
What was once the demesne of a few dedicated men and women during the 20th century photojournalism as a profession has, since 2005, been passed over to Citizen’s Journalism, the Internet, and social media.
I feel privileged to have been part of the 1970s and 80s era of postmodernist photography to which this image belongs. Burning Bus on Donegall Road, 1978 is from an archive I created between 1973-1989 that chronicles a personal view of a transforming Belfast against a backdrop of civil unrest and conflict.
Safe access to photographing the streets of Belfast during that troubled time came with a press card and a career with influential newspapers and magazines.
I wanted to record the streets, the life and the incredible resilience common people had during the “Troubles” while watching the decaying grandeur of their once industrial powerhouse.
A media person with fancy expensive cameras was something of a novelty then on Belfast’s streets. It attracted the attention of the curious, the innocent and the willing. A burning bus was a common occurrence but to some children, posing for a picture trumped this event. For me it was strange to have such lovely subjects photographed against a backdrop that demonstrates why children and conflict are so contradictory in their nature and being.
Maybe these words can describe how I approached my task when searching for the soul of the city during that period.”
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
– T.S. Elliot – The Wasteland
Protest! Photography, Activism and Social Change in Ireland is in the Gallery of Photography until June 4
Words and images: Martin Nangle