Northern Ireland news

`Desolation and destruction' of Troubles captured in new photography exhibition

Two men on a bench and a Marine Commando pictured by Séan Hillen at Sugar Island in the centre of Newry on a Twelfth of July

THE "desolation and destruction of the Troubles" is captured in a new photography exhibition at Belfast's Linen Hall Library.

Entitled `Melancholy Witness Images of the Troubles', the display by Séan Hillan - co-designer of the Omagh Bomb Memorial - is a collection of images with a "documentary feel".

Launching on April 10 and running until May 5, around 40 prints are on view in the Linen Hall's Vertical Gallery.

The exhibition was first seen in 2012, and has been compiled into book form.

Newry-born artist Hillen created the collection of mostly black-and-white photographs between 1979 and 1990, recording what he describes as the "already surreal" life as he saw it in Northern Ireland.

Aged 18 in 1979, he photographed the July 12 parade in Belfast city centre, and then some years later events at `the field' outside Newry where Orangemen assembled, "speeches were delivered and chips and ice-cream consumed".

Hillen, who had grown up listening to gunfire almost nightly and himself been arrested for stone-throwing as a teenager, had left the north to attend art schools in London.

Travelling back-and-forth to take the pictures, he said he felt "increasingly compelled" to document what he saw and "distil some record" from life during the conflict.

Included in the exhibition is a 1981 picture of the massive funeral of hunger striker Patsy O'Hara, and a long sequence in the ensuing rioting around the rubble of buildings at Derry's `Aggro Corner'.

Also featured is a portrait of an older woman walking down Falls Road `where a freshly-destroyed cinema tumbles its once-ornate innards on the pavement beside her'.

There is also an image of a neighbour of Hillen's showing the bruising caused by a plastic bullet fired during his arrest and elsewhere "at a moment of pause in the rioting, a teenage stone-thrower stares down the camera through eyeholes cut in his Celtic-scarf mask".

`The Field' outside Newry where Orangemen assembled. Picture by Séan Hillen

A neighbour of Hillen's showing the bruising caused by a plastic bullet fired during his arrest. Picture by Séan Hillen

A portrait of an older woman walking down Falls Road. Picture by Séan Hillen

Séan Hillen's 1981 picture of the funeral of hunger striker Patsy O'Hara

The `Twelfth' in Belfast. Picture by Séan Hillen

Two men on a bench and a Marine Commando pictured by Séan Hillen at Sugar Island in the centre of Newry on a Twelfth of July

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