’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.
The most visible aspect of Loyalist culture was typified by the July 12th celebrations and the days preceding them. These celebrations were to mark the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange (a Dutchman), over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. For many loyalists it is seen as a critical part of their heritage and identity. It is also about a historical right to celebrate and march through areas now inhabited by Catholics, It is an excuse for a huge party, with neighbourhoods competing to build the largest bonfire with burning effigies atop, much drinking and marching with flute bands and beating of the large Lambeg drum reputedly used by the army of William of Orange. For those on the other side of the often invisible walls that separated to two traditions in Northern Ireland, these were provocative triumphalist displays often resulting in violence between the two communities and the police.’
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.