Northern Ireland news

Press photographers recall horror of Troubles for UTV documentary

An image captured in October 1989 of Gerry Conlon as he emerges from the Old Bailey. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE horror of the Troubles seen through the lens of press photographers in Northern Ireland is the focus of a new documentary.

As eye-witnesses to numerous harrowing atrocities as they went about their work documenting the conflict, several photographers have spoken about the devastation they captured.

Irish News photographer Hugh Russell is among those who tell their story in a UTV documentary, due to be broadcast on Thursday.

Gerry Fitzgerald, Stanley Matchett, Fred Hoare, Trevor Dickson and Paul Faith are also featured in the programme, which is part of UTV’s Frontline series dedicated to people who provided vital services during the Troubles.

File photo of the civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday

Recalling capturing images of the Troubles, Fred Hoare tells the documentary it began with "civil rights marches and all the political stuff up at Stormont".

"Then it started to change and get much more violent," he said.

He was in Derry on Bloody Sunday and described how he saw the body of Jackie Duddy, the first person shot dead that day, carried along the street.

"I could see in the distance the priest coming down in front of people carrying a body...I just kept clicking until I got what I thought was a good picture," he said.

He added: "I think I was numb, I can't even remember driving back from Derry to Belfast or where I went afterwards."

Irish News photographer Hugh Russell features in the documentary

Mr Hoare also tells the programme how how "using a camera became like using a shield".

"You didn't think too much about it at the time unless suddenly you were attacked by somebody, it really was just a matter of dodging bricks and bottles," he said.

Trevor Dickson, who started his photography career in 1964, said he felt "overnight he turned into a war photographer".

He said "you took the photograph and got out of the way as quick as you could" and added "you never took a side, you were just there doing a job and you just took what you seen".

Gerry Fitzgerald was a photographer for the Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Fitzgerald, who worked for the Belfast Telegraph, spoke about the "terror" he witnessed.

"We covered riots, we were photographing bodies covered in sheets, people who had been killed and of course explosions," he said.

"They were the main things you were photographing and funerals as well, the aftermath of it all - that was your day - day in, day out just photographing horror and terror."

Stanley Matchett also recalled the events of Bloody Sunday, describing it as "one of the saddest days of my life being there".

He added: "If someone said it would go on for 35 years and 3,700 people will die, you would have said don't be ridiculous.

"There were many days when you thought it couldn't get any worse and it did."

Irish News photographer Hugh Russell

Paul Faith began his career in the Ballymena Guardian in 1982, but it wasn't long before he was in Belfast capturing images of the conflict.

"I went to Belfast to cover one of the republican parades and it was the first time I'd been on the Falls Road, I was shaking like a leaf, I was so scared," he tells the documentary.

"I went home that night depressed thinking I'll never be able to do this job, but I soon learned and soon got the hang of it - it became a way of life for me."

Hugh Russell also describes his experience working as a photographer during the Troubles and the images he captured, including Gerry Conlon emerging from the Old Bailey in October 1989.

"I think a lot of us lived through all of the Troubles and it's only when we go back and see it replayed back to you that we realise what we actually went through," he said.

"I often found that when you were looking through your camera looking at stuff, you were isolated from it, I think that was one way to try and keep yourself safe."

Series producer Sinead Hughes, said: "These are more ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs in the most challenging of times. Once again, the professions we have highlighted are the unsung heroes of that time."

Frontline is on UTV on Thursday at 10.45pm

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