“I intended to cover the situation from the standpoint of the underdog, the downtrodden: I was not neutral and was not interested in capturing it so… I began to see that my work in Northern Ireland had always been a celebration of the resilience and unyielding way that the Catholic community resisted”
– Chris Steel-Perkins
“I came to Belfast in 1978 as part of a project looking at inner-city poverty in the UK. Three photographers – Nicholas Battye, Paul Trevor and myself, worked as the Exit Group,” says Chris Steel-Perkins. “In 2020, I realised that the following year would be the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Northern Ireland border, in many respects the start of the Troubles. I started digging through my archives and found some work I was interested in and in which others could find some value…
“It was a time of great poverty and rising racism. Street riots and police violence were becoming a common occurrence in many of the cities in the UK, and it seemed to us that these problems could easily escalate into a similar chaos as that which existed in Northern Ireland: a civil war with the army deployed in the streets.”
‘I was interested in how life was lived in its various facets, not just the rioting and the military occupation, though I couldn’t ignore that as it was so prevalent. But also the leisure, the entertainment, the homes, the fun, the funerals and the community… I was not there to illustrate a thesis but to enter the unknown, interacting and responding, and attempting to remain honest.”
“I take photographs, and photos explain nothing; they describe. These photographs go some way towards describing a Catholic community under attack by a largely Protestant community backed up by the British state.”
The Troubles by Chris Steele-Perkins is published by Bluecoat Press. All images © Chris Steele-Perkins
Would you like to support Flashbak?
Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.