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: