In The Frame: Martin Nangle – Burning Bus on Donegall Road, 1978

Posted 1 month ago in More

BIMM may-june 22 – Desktop


Martin Nangle

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


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