Northern Ireland photography book wins Irish-American prize

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 00:00

Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography by Dr Colin Graham, senior lecturer in the Department of English and curator of the Illuminations Gallery at Maynooth University has been awarded the 2014 Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture by the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS).

Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography is published by Belfast Exposed and the MAC.  Taking a historical and thematic approach, the collection brings together significant works by over fifty photographers to examine the phenomenon of new photographic practices in Northern Ireland.  While presenting an analysis of its broad aesthetics, the book also questions the extent to which the theme of conflict has dominated our blinkered view of Northern Irish photography, and attempts to depart from the more prevalent documentary-style photography of the past.
Through the inclusion of work by photographers with a keen sense of trends and debates in the wider contexts of contemporary photography and art, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography considers photography from Northern Ireland as a reflection of place in the broadest possible sense.
Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title, staged at Belfast Exposed and the MAC in June 2013. 
Discussing the award win, Dr Colin Graham said: “I feel extremely proud and humbled to be recognized with this award by the American Conference for Irish Studies.  Photography has always been one of the most accessible and compelling forms of storytelling and I feel particularly privileged to have been able to work with so many talented photographers in assembling this book, and to showcase the visionary photographic work they have made.” 
“From the outset of this project we wanted to show how art photography in Northern Ireland has challenged superficial perceptions of the place and its history.  By defying the parameters of traditional photography the book reveals how the calm artistry of photography uncovers new ways of seeing the world.  Northern Irish society has undergone dramatic changes over the past thirty years and its artistic community continues to grow and engage in parallel.  We wanted to introduce our audience to a new history of the place and the many tensions and challenges it continues to overcome.”

Photo: ​‘Butterfly Catchers’ (1999)
© Hannah Starkey
Courtesy of Maureen Paley Gallery