p h o t o g r a p h e r
In 1982, a camera club was set up in the local community centre. The Mac Airt Camera Club was part of an initiative devised by the photojournalist Buzz Logan and others who had already established a successful community photographic workshop in the Shankill area of the city.
Buzz was recording the trauma the Shankill was experiencing due to housing re-development and other factors. He also encouraged other communities to record their own experiences, and with limited resources established basic darkrooms in Lenadoon, Springmartin and Short Strand.
At great expense, my father bought me a camera – an old praktica but with sharp 35mm and 50mm Ziess lenses. This was my passage into the world of photography.
I quickly became fascinated with photography and was eager to learn the alchemy, mixing chemical potions and then watching the latent images gradually appearing to make a print. It all seemed like magic to me. I carried a camera everywhere.
After about two years the club closed, the British government deemed the place a hotbed of subversives and withdrew funding. My father again stepped in and built a darkroom under the pigeon coop in the yard of our tiny house in Clyde Street.
From the out set I was aware of the potential of the camera as the tool to capture the world around me, which by the early 1980s was changing rapidly due to housing re-development. The transformation taking place was to have a profound effect on the community, as streets that had stood for generations were leveled.
My photographs cover not only the period of re-development, showing the old streets just before they disappeared, but also the new houses and streets that sprung up to replace them. They also contain many pictures of the characters, individuals and groups, young and old, enjoying themselves at play or during a night out while others reflect some of the experiences the community endured during periods of conflict in the 1980s and 1990s.
Growing up in the area and knowing everyone was a distinct advantage. People viewed me as an insider, as one of them, and therefore felt at ease as I milled around snapping away. Children, friends and my own family were my favorite ‘subjects’, all willing participants in the theatre of street photography.
Page compiled by Martin Melaugh