Friday, 16 April 2010

Friends & family discuss Belfast

To coincide with the series of photographs I am going to introduce a flow of text. The content and dialogue will be direct quotes from friends and family discussing Belfast and their personal experiences of the city.

These are some short extracts:

Nicky Thompson What does Belfast mean to you?

Andrew Todd It's when you ring someone's doorbell and peg it.

Amy Cooper driving to work...and stupid drivers and traffic.....but also gigs and local music xx

Myles Thompson home - but a confused place

Stephanie Robinson my two beautiful friends live there

Lucy Rebecca People in belfast moan about being people in belfast- but as soon as people from belfast leave, all they wanna talk about belfast.

Natasha Mladek It thinks it's bigger than it really is. The people are home birds.

Peter Todd

Age 20

Edinburgh University

Relation - Cousin

Belfast is catching up a bit. I think it’s starting to look well. Although people always say to me ‘aw I hear Belfast is an amazing night out!’ It’s not really, there isn’t that many places to go, and they’re all spread out.

I find when I go to uni everyone seems to be from here. I have never met someone from Belfast who we both don’t someone in common. You ask ‘what school did you go to?’ and then you figure it out. “oh do you know…?”

Do you have any stories that would only happen in Belfast?

Yeah my dad was helping your dad once to knock down walls of his old house. Apparently they were up quite late trying to get it all done. Anyway, the next day in the surgery this woman came in complaining about not being able to sleep very well. So my dad had a look at her, then she said “you won’t believe the noise next door were making late into the night, banging away!” My dad had a wee look at her address and it was the house next door! It was my dad keeping her awake! Brilliant! I mean what are the odds, now that is typical of Belfast.

Debbie Thompson

Age 50ish


Relation – Mother

Tell me about Belfast.

Well it used to be known for it’s linen industry and many of the old homes were to do with the linen industry and ship building.

It’s home, I’m quite content. If I had to move I’d move to Scotland.


It’s more like home.

What was it like growing up during the Troubles?

Well because of the Troubles we wouldn’t go out into town. We would stay outside of town and go to pubs like Baloo and the Crawfordsburn Inn, then we would all go back to someone’s house for coffee.

We would never venture up West Belfast – No Way. I think we could do with a few more pubs. Those days you would have driven home with a few pints inside you. You wouldn’t drive if you were totally sloshed.

Do you have any stories that would only happen in Belfast?

Well I don’t know if this is type thing you’re looking for but it’s a good story. Hilary Warnock and I got married one week apart and we had the same going away outfit. And that was April. Then Captains Day, I got a new dress and we were all meeting at Hilary’s first. Now I wouldn’t normally wear red, but when Hilary opened the door she had the same dress! She went upstairs and changed. Jonny was born a week before Myles and Michael was born a month after you.

Laura Thompson

Age 22

University of Ulster

Relation – Friend

Caroline Webb

Age 22

University of Ulster

Relation – Friend

Laura: I think Belfast is made up of circles. Like we all come from the same circle and you don’t really care about anyone outside of the circle.

Caroline: Yeah I think the circles are formed from the schools, there are like 5 or 6 main schools that we would all know, and we would all no people who go to those schools. We wouldn’t really know about any of the Catholic schools.

Laura: Sure our parents were all in the same wee circles.

Webb: wee, people from Belfast always say wee

Laura: Yeah wee is a really big word.

Becky Poots

Age 12

Relation – Cousin

What does Belfast mean to you?

Nothing much. I love the sun but we don’t get any, the sky is white.

What are people from Belfast like?

They are ginger. Five of my six cousins have red hair. I don’t.

Barbara McCaughey

John McCaughey

Relation – Grandparents

Barbara: I remember when the first modern shop arrived in Belfast, it was a hairdressers. My mummy took me in and it was quite expensive, quite upmarket. I had long long plats in my hair with bows, the bows just kept falling out. Now girls use elastic. Elastic was used first to stop the bows from slipping off.

John do you remember where the hairdressers was?

John: Yes. There was a wall built around the city.

Around the whole city?

John: Yes well Belfast was a lot smaller then, and Belfast castle was in the middle, the wall surrounded the castle for defence. That’s what a city is.

Karen McClintock Interview

I met with Karen McClintock on Thursday 1st April 2010 at 7:30pm in Waterstones. It was a very relaxed and casual interview which made the whole experience very enjoyable.

Karen is an amateur abstract photographer, studying photography part time. She studies in Belfast and therefore has great knowledge and experience of the area I am focusing on. Karen has photographed Belfast for years and therefore looks at the city with a creative eye.

I began by explaining to Karen that I was using abstract photography to represent Belfast in a unique way and was capturing the city from an alternate perspective. I described to her that my photographs were made up of elements meeting each other, edges, two halves, opposites attracting, divisions, lines etc and how to me this was a representation of Belfast with it’s religious divisions and peace walls. Karen understood the topic immediately and loved the abstract interpretation of the theme.

I wanted to discuss some of Karen’s work that I found inspirational so we looked through her online portfolio.

I find this photo really clever and intriguing what does it represent?

This was part of a self expoation project. It is my self portait and expresses how sometimes I keep myself closed off. I like to keep myself to myself.

I love the simplicity of this image.

What is it?

It is actually the staircase at the Ulster Museum, I took it at such an angle that it only shows the bannisters and the walls.

I never would have guessed it was a staircase.

I know, that’s what I love about it. Only I really know what it is. That’s similar to your project. I think it gives the photographer a sense of power when the audience can’t quite place the photograph.

These sharp lines are what I have been trying to capture. How did you get these so clean and crisp?

I took these when I was in a museum, everyone was looking at the artwork and I was off taking pictures of the roof. I am fascinated at how light can create three diferent tones of the same colour. That’s why I took them. Don’t you worry about trying to take clean photographs. Your project is about Belfast, the nitty and the gritty. Focus on the subject and the theme. Belfast is drainpipes, gutters, brick walls, lines, contracts, textures, not clean white walls. I don’t really like this photo anymore, my style really is changing to rougher subjects. That’s why I find your Belfast topic interesting.

I think this is a lovely photo, it’s really interesing and rough. It looks slightly vintage.

Yeah this is my favourite photo too! I had it as my profile picture on Facebook for ages. All I did was tone the colour down on Photoshop which gives it that really nice 70s look. I love the rough edge it has, I think my style is definatly changing from the crisp clean white backgrounds to a more dirty gritty look.

This picture has great texture and a sense of perspective. Why did you take it?

That’s a good question. I don’t really know why. Being an abstract photographer I’m always looking at things differently to others, I don’t necessarily see a wall, I see a texture, a pattern and possibilities. I’m beginning to be more experimental with Photoshop so I see an image that has the potential to become a work of art.

karen has set herself a brief to take one photograph a day from the 1st January 2010 to the 31st December 2010. She uses her iPhone to take the pictures and we begin talking about camera equipment.

“The best camera you have

is the camera in your pocket.”

Karen McClintock

Karen’s comments on my photographs of Belfast.

This has a lovely old fashioned look, I like how its light and faded grey. It’s sharp.

I would be carful with your framing here, try not to have things too centred. Alignment to the left or right is better.

This is the rough edgy style I love. I think the black and white looks brilliant on this one. Great detail in the rubbish.

Again that vintage look. This picture plays with the depth of field well, its interesting.

Good use of texture. I’ve taken those type before, very effective, good framing.

Yep! I like this. Plain, simple, sharp.

This is an interesting one, it’s a good photo, not sure if I like the text? But it works.

Using light to create the line, that’s clever. Belfast is very into it’s brick work, that’s a good one.

Brilliant! What is it? The bottom of a swimming pool? I like it, good use of the lines, it’s not too much either.

Do you have any further tips or words of advice for me?

I don’t think you really need much advice, you already have the creative eye and that’s the most important part. You play with lighting and framing well and I think the concept of Belfast is very clever.

All I would say is simple is better, open your eyes and look up! Don’t worry about the pictures being crystal clear, your subject is gritty so just get totally consumed by your theme.


My Belfast Photographs

Over the past two weeks of Easter, in Belfast, I have had the opportunity to collate the practical elements of my project. I began with taking abstract photographs of Belfast, which portray a personal and unique representation of the city. These are a selection of the photographs:

Monday, 15 March 2010

Shaped by War - Don McCullin

On Sunday 14th March I went to the Imperial War Museum to see the Don McCullin photography exhibition 'Shaped by War.'

Imperial War Museum North presents the largest ever UK exhibition about the life and work of Don McCullin, one of the world’s most acclaimed photographers, to mark his 75th year. Many items are on public display for the very first time.

For more than 50 years, McCullin’s images have shaped our awareness of modern conflict and its consequences. His courage and integrity, as well as the exceptional quality of his work, are a continuing inspiration and influence worldwide.

A unique collaboration between McCullin and the Imperial War Museum, this major new exhibition contains over 200 photographs, objects, magazines and personal memorabilia, and shows how war has shaped the life of this exceptional British photographer and those across the globe over the last half-century.

Don McCullin said he used black and white photography for more impact. I found his work extremely moving and had to continue to remind myself that the images were real and that he was there in the moment. Some of his photos were so powerful and emotional, they just consumed you and you felt like they were speaking to you. Reading the short blurb beside each photo really gave the pictures meaning and you could then identify with the people in the photograph.

Below are some photographs which I cannot forget.

A mother and daughter
This photograph was taken in Africa of a mother and her two children. The mother died and years later Don returned to Africa and gave the boys this photograph. This was the only time he ever did this. The boys were happy to have a photograph of their mother. Don did not enjoy this moment.

A solider in shock

A wife grieving for her dead husband.

The Belfast Concept

After our session on wednesday I went and printed all my B&W photographs on A4 paper.

My original aim in taking the photographs was to capture where 'things meet' (protestants & Catholics) therefore I only selected the photographs which made a solid divide through the whole image.

Abstract photography provided the opportunity to capture a personal unique perspective of Belfast. In taking the photographs I was looking for significance in the mundane and ordinary using composition, lighting, layout and texture.

I stuck all the photos on my wall and experimented with different concepts, orders, directions, rotations, patterns etc. When I placed all the photographs in a horizontal line and rotated the images accordingly to match up the division line I realised that as an overall piece this created a seamless thread joining all the photographs together.

It was a challenge in selecting the order of the photographs as some images work better than others together to create the solid line through the centre. When I sat back and looked at the arrangement of the images I realised that to me this concept represented Belfast. When you bring together photographs of divisions, collisions, separations, you create a single thread that links them all together. Without having that contrast, the conflict, the barrier, you would never create that unity. That single thread creates greater strength.

This signifies that Belfast could be a stronger place in terms of relationship, and attitude due to its areas of weakness. The thread running through the middle is an element both sides experience and have in common.

The continuous line that runs through the centre of the photographs represents the division in Belfast. It is consistant and strong and symbolises that Belfast have always had divions, Belfast will always be remembered for divisions and Belfast will continue to have divisions. If Belfast recognise and respect these divisions by stepping back they can see that the divisions have have created a single thread that runs through the city generating great strength.

Although this thread represents Belfast's history, present and future, what is really important is the people either side of this line. It is the people on either side of this thread that continue to demonstrate Belfast's strength. I would show this by the use of text on either side of the line. Quotations, stories, memories, opinions, personal interviews. The line is always going to be there, however the people to talk about Belfast, not specifically the political / religious divisions.

Together the line and text would take the reader through a narrative. The art will be making the line seamless taking the viewer on a journey. At this point the black and white photos work best. It signifies Belfast's distinct contrast between two sides however, almost in every case, it demonstrates that there are shades of grey. This is reflected in my Northern Ireland segregation maps.

I like how the black and white photographs make the audience work to interpret the content. By injecting colour, it can often give the picture away to easily. I opted against using flag colours as it makes the project too obviously political and I would like the audience to interpret the meaning of the images themselves. The territory colours having such significant meaning in Belfast I am reluctant to use them as I would be worried of causing any offense. If I were to include colour through the images it would begin to influence the photographs I took and I must remember the main purpose of the photography is to capture things 'that meet'.

With the photographs in Black and white they are not detracting from the importance of the words.


Belfast is notorious for division,

Together division can create great strength,

Strength is reflected in the people of Belfast.

I think the combination of the back and white photographs representing something of a taboo subject in Northern Ireland would be balanced out by the warmth of the personal quotations.

Overall I think the abstract photography, the personal words and the following of the line through the book would generate an interesting narrative, of my own personal representation of Belfast.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Karen McClintock


Karen McClintock is an amateur photographer based in Belfast. I find her photographs really inspiring and enjoy the simplicity of them. Karen's work demonstrates how to use both black & white and colour effectively in abstract photography.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Kyle Cooper

Kyle Cooper is the most successful modern designer of motion picture title sequences.

His work includes the opening credit sequences of:

Seven (1995),

Arlington Road (1999),

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996),

Flubber (1997),

The Mummy (1999),

Zoolander (2001),

Spider-Man (2002),

Dawn of the Dead (2004),

Spider-Man 2 (2004),

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004),

Superman Returns (2006),

Across the Universe (2007),

The Incredible Hulk (2008),

Tropic Thunder (2008),

The Orphan (2009)

With regards to the typography I like how the typeface works individually with its frame, but also all together as a sequence. I love the hand written effect on top of the images.

Kyle Cooper’s work is famous for the level of detail and beauty within every single frame. He concentrates on the movement of typography at much as the design. The transition between frames is so well considered that they tell a story within themselevs.

Kyle’s work is often refered to as the prologue as the title sequence can sometimes serve as the first scene, or as a prologue to the story you are about to see.

Kyle Cooper Interview:

“I really like the idea of the veins of an eye becoming a map. He’s changing, but he’s also running away. It’s a very short moment, but as a frame, and as an idea, I really like it. It’s well composed. It’s beautiful, and it tells the story in a very quick and concise way. So those kinds of frames – those kinds of little details – perfection is made up of trifles. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but those kinds of trifles are interesting to me.”