Before becoming a photographer, Sean Hillen was a tinkerer. As a young teenager, one of his favourite pastimes was to take apart his grandfather’s old cameras and then piece them back together again. It wasn’t long before he discovered that with a bit of tweaking he could fix a brand new 120 roll of film into an outmoded 620 camera. “I did that, I got them developed, and I was immediately addicted to photography”.
Hillen grew up through the Troubles in Newry, Northern Ireland, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. “It was utter chaos,” he says. “I knew people who got killed, and I knew people who killed other people”. Hillen and his four siblings would lie awake in bed at night listening to gun battles, which were so frequent that they were able to distinguish between the sounds of different weapons.
Titled XO, Josh Adam Jones’ graduation project investigates expatriate communities in Oman. “I had informed myself about Middle Eastern culture and the social landscape in the country before visiting, so upon arrival I was eager to embrace everything I was presented with,” he says. “The atmosphere was hugely welcoming, albeit stiflingly hot.”
Born in Cheltenham in 1995, and a recent documentary photography graduate from the University of the West of England, Jones says his inquisitive nature pushed him towards social documentary photography. “I like meeting people, so looking outwards, as opposed to photographing my own ‘backyard’, always felt natural,” he says. “Images have a wonderful potency that other mediums cannot quite match.”
“They had this amazing enthusiasm; a very creative enthusiasm,” says Peter Kennard, the well-known photomontage specialist and early member of the radical photography collective Half Moon Photography Workshop. “Camerawork contained all the different debates that were going on in photography at the time, but it was practical as well. The whole thing was about democratising photography.”
Radical Visions, a new exhibition at Four Corners in East London, reveals the lesser-known history of Camerawork magazine and its creators, the Half Moon Photography Workshop. The exhibition coincides with the launch of the Four Corners Archive, which has made all 32 issues of the magazine publicly available to view online.
The collective’s aim was to demystify the process of photography, and to use it as a tool for social change and political activism. The first issue of Camerawork, The Politics of Photography, published in February 1976, was stark black-and-white litho print on a broadsheet format – sheets of A2 paper folded to A3, then to A4 – and sold for 20p. It was pulled together over an all-night session fuelled by bagels and coffee at the Half Moon’s first studio in Chalk Farm.
“This exhibition doesn’t have any of the clichés people might expect Irish photography to have,” says Vivienne Gamble. “I want it to give a viewpoint of the country that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily expect.”
The director of Peckham’s Seen Fifteen Gallery is talking about Triptych, an exhibition showing in Paris from 09-12 November in association with Centre Culturel Irlandais. The exhibition, which will be held across the three levels of the Espace Lhomond gallery just across the street from the CCI, features work by three of Ireland’s most promising photographers: Ciarán Óg Arnold, Megan Doherty and Martin Seeds, each of whom is showing photographs deeply rooted in their homeland.
“People might not have a lot, but they will give you what they can. That’s true of so many Irish people. They’re a very warm and friendly and welcoming people. They will tell you stories and their lives and give you their time.” Josh Adam Jones, a student at the University of West England, Bristol, developed his project 99 Peace Walls whilst volunteering at Belfast’s photo festival this summer. The youth of the city helped him to understand the divides that are still ingrained into the culture there, and how, in spite of this, there is a warm community to be found throughout the city.
Portrait of Britain returns for a second year with 100 more images that encapsulate life the length and breadth of the UK. From almost 8,000 entries this year, the final hundred will now be displayed in a digital exhibition across JCDecaux screens in shopping centres and commuter hubs around the country throughout September. In partnership with Nikon, the photography giant, Portrait of Britain aims to show the social and cultural diversity of people in the UK and showcase everyday citizens and unsung heroes in a gallery of the people, by the people, for the people. Simon Bainbridge, Editorial Director at the British Journal of Photography, was excited about the latest portraits for 2017, saying, “Collectively, the portraits celebrate the unique heritage and diversity of modern Britain, as much as its thriving photography culture and the myriad styles and approaches they employ in their work.”
From the dimly-lit back alleys of Belfast, right into the interiors of its inhabitants’ homes, Chad Alexander’s graduation project Entries takes us on a reflective journey through the streets where he grew up. The 27-year-old first picked up a camera after seeing an exhibition that combined scenes of the Northern Ireland conflict with vignettes of daily life; he has since been developing his own take on documentary in this series. “It was work that I had always wanted to make, but until that point I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it,” he explains.
Over 2014, Ross Young photographed the military barracks near his home in Belfast. Driving to work in the morning, the 25-year-old would pass the barracks, seeing scattered buildings beyond barbed-wire walls. “I became really fascinated by the modern military,” he says. “What they do, how they have changed, who they are, what they stand for now.” The nephew of a lieutenant colonel, he gained access to the barracks and photographed everything: portraits of the soldiers, the buildings, beds, dorms, gyms and churches. But it was the communal eating areas that held his gaze. “Everything is split by rank. The junior rank, middle rank and officers each have their own spaces, and each one is visibly different,” he says. “They had such an impactful personality. They revealed so much to me about life in the Army. It shows the difference in the ranks; what soldiers have to go through to work their way up.” He was born in Killyleagh, a suburban area to the south of Belfast, and now lives in the …
“The interventions are intended as a fresh approach to subject matter that would otherwise be considered nostalgic,” explains Belfast-based photographer Jill Quigley, describing the work she’s been making in abandoned buildings in Ireland. The project came about when she sought a subject to work on during her master’s degree at the University of Ulster in Belfast, whose Photography MFA has gathered much recent praise. “I was drawn to the contradiction between contemporary lifestyle and all the historical aspects that linger in rural places, such as the area where I grew up in County Donegal,” she explains. “When I was walking around looking for inspiration, I came across many of these little abandoned houses. The problem was that the kind of imagery associated with places like these purports to document a disappearing way of life, and that wasn’t something I wanted to replicate. By painting things or throwing [something] the moment I took the photograph, I aimed to emphasise the present tense. Thankfully, due to the redundant nature of the spaces there was no need to …
A streak of neon-bright green files among the domestic clutter of a small British living room. The fancy bird chooses its perch between the sofa, the flat screen TV, the mantlepiece and the closed window. The bird is indigenous to the forests of Venezuela, Colombia and Guyana, but it is here, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, playing a starring role in Rachel Glass’ series The Domestic Aviary. “Confinement or sanctuary?” Glass asks, as the birds fly through “the looser confines” of the contemporary domestic home, in all its tastes. “How much freedom do we actually have, and how much we can invest in it?” In the corner sits the bird’s cage. She has caught them, wings stretched mid-flight, or appraising their horizons, preparing to fly in a larger cage. “We as people can fly as far as we want,” the 21-year-old Glass says. “But are we confined or constrained by our own lives and commitments?” In her eyes, these birds are metaphors: “Of our own conscious understanding of freedom, in all its limits and possibilities.” Glass grew up in the countryside around …