’30 years on from taking these photographs, a lot has changed, the Belfast and Good Friday Agreements, power sharing and a return to peaceful coexistence. However the pursuit of Brexit and the fantasy of a return to pre-colonial greatness gave the hard line members of the DUP an opportunity they could not resist. Those who pursued the Brexit project either were completely ignorant of politics and the history of Northern Ireland or they simply did not care that an equilibrium that had begun to exist could be sacrificed to their plan. The DUP threatening to collapse the executive over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the economy under severe strain and the Loyalist Communities Council, the body representing loyalist paramilitaries withdrew their support for the Good Friday Agreement. It doesn’t feel as if there is a lot to celebrate.
I am not a news photographer, there are many of my colleagues who have pursued that profession with much greater and success than I. Even though on occasion I had covered some news events, my concern has always been to document the often quiet and unreported insignificant moments that make up the day to day lived experiences of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.
My first visit to Northern Ireland took me to South Armagh, or “Bandit Country”, as it was sometimes referred. The IRA had such control over the area that the British army could only move around by helicopter. Street signs warned of ‘Sniper at Work’. Weapons and members of the IRA. crossed the border easily and managed many deadly attacks and SAS units shot to kill intercepting and ambushing IRA operations. The border runs for 499 km, with minor roads, blocked or blown up with large craters blocking a travellers path, main roads with fortified customs posts and watchtowers. The border ran through the middle of farmers’ fields, others having to drive 40 miles to cross checkpoints to access their fields. Locals took it in their hands to dismantle the structures placed to block border roads, the British Army would then replace them. A game of cat and mouse. Idiosyncrasies such as this were overshadowed by the darker activities that resulted from living with the disputed border. The random shootings, bombs and the funerals that followed.’
About the Artist
Mike Abrahams has worked as a freelance photographer for over 40 years having become renowned for his sensitive eye in documenting the lives of ordinary people often in extraordinary situations. In 1981 he was a cofounder of Network Photographers the Internationally renowned picture agency and his work has taken him around the world. His photographs have been published in all the major international news media.
About the Publisher
Café Royal Books (founded 2005) is an independent publisher based in Southport, England. Originally set up as a way to disseminate art, in multiple, affordably, quickly, and internationally while not relying on ‘the gallery’. Café Royal Books publishes artist’s books and zines as well as a weekly series of photobook/zines. The photographic publications are part of a long ongoing series, generally working with photographers and their archives, to publish work, which usually falls into 1970–2000 UK documentary / reportage.