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Camerawork Derry / Interview with Jim ‘Hawks’ Collins

It’s not for you we did it, poster #4 by Ciara Phillips. Photographic images, Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Camerawork Derry.
Image description: Black and white photographs arranged in three rows like strips of photo-negatives. The images depict, variously, people making petrol bombs; a helicopter; a woman looking in a dresser mirror, a man in front of Free Derry Wall; a group of adults and children holding photographs of domestic interiors; a group of women, two holding signs that say ‘Lesbians’ and ‘Lesbian Mothers’; a woman waving to camera; people sheltering behind graves in a cemetery; a march with a banner reading ‘Free Political Hostages Now’. Text in between the photo strips reads, “It’s different now, every fucker’s got a camera in their pocket… Then the only people who had cameras were foreign journalists, local journalists or the Peelers or the Brits. That’s the reality of it. No one else had cameras; not in our world. We had this camera. We realised the power of it.”

 

Downloadable Image Here

Then the only people who had cameras were foreign journalists, local journalists, or the Peelers1 or the Brits. That’s the reality of it. No one else had cameras. Not in our world. We had this camera. We realised the power of it.

And you quickly realised that as you step out and you have a camera over your shoulder, you were stopped. You would have been stopped anyway, but you were setting yourself up for even more attention from the state. Cause they’re going straight away, “What’s this fucker up to with the camera?”, you know, so immediately you knew that this obviously was a powerful thing.

Established in 1982, Camerawork Derry was a photography collective and a community darkroom that provided young people in Derry City with the tools to document and represent their own community ‘from below.’ Formed initially by the activist (now filmmaker) Trisha Ziff, it was built on the model of the radical, collective community photography projects that proliferated in England and elsewhere during the 1970s. The young people involved in Camerawork experimented with different ways to produce, exhibit, publish, use and disseminate their work—to tell the truth of their own lives and challenge mainstream depictions of Derry, its people, and the conflict. Camerawork Derry member Jim ‘Hawks’ Collins discussed the collective and its work with Sara Greavu on 4 December 2020.

Sara Greavu: What can you tell me about the origins of Camerawork Derry?2

Jim Collins: Trisha Ziff was here in ‘81, during the hunger strike period. She obviously had some ideas from their experience in the Camerawork London group and maybe through her involvement with the Troops Out Movement.

At that time, [Camerawork member] Julie Doherty was involved in Creggan Youth Against Oppression. There were several groupings then in support of the prisoners, organised on a neighborhood basis, you know: Bogside Youth Against Oppression, Creggan Youth Against Oppression… She was involved in the Creggan group. Trisha was at a meeting to discuss the situation and what people could do, and she approached Julie then to see would she be interested in getting involved in this potential photographic project based within the community. I’m sure you don’t need the actual minutiae of the detail, but I would say it came out of activists in England via the Troops Out movement, coming over here and possibly suggesting we could support [the political struggle] by doing this.

Camerawork member Trisha Ziff gives a briefing, 1983. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A young woman sits in a circle with a number of men. She appears to be listening to a question. The walls behind them are covered in photographs and posters and there is office/photographic equipment behind them. The posters in the background deal with a number of different causes and campaigns, including International Women’s Day, the hunger strikes, and opposition to the SDLP. A graphic picture of Che Guevara is prominent to the right of the picture.

 

Camerawork member Julie Doherty gives a workshop on darkroom techniques, 1983. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A young woman in a white shirt holds a film development reel and speaks to two young men who are listening intently. Photographic equipment sits on a counter behind them.

 

SG: So Trisha was planning a community photography project and she started identifying dynamic young people that could be involved, and Julie obviously was very dynamic and had something to say?

JC: [Trisha] was only 26, and for someone who comes from England to come over here in the middle of all this, it’s quite ballsy, I suppose. She obviously wasn’t short of confidence and short of well… “I’m gonna go there and suggest this.”

So the origins were, I suppose, it was a [republican] movement thing, and that helped inform what we did. We were just young people, naive to some degree, but we were left to our own devices. There wasn’t that much direction, as such. It was run on a collective basis, in terms of the day to day, us as staff. There was probably a board [of directors] on paper, but that was probably for the purposes of charitable status, and you need to get all that administrative stuff in place. But I think it was just purely on paper.

In terms of training, the only training we ever got was through Trisha Ziff. She taught whatever she knew photographic-wise: darkroom techniques and taking photos. She wouldn’t have been an expert by a long shot. She just probably winged it and passed on whatever she knew to us. We didn’t receive any other training thereafter. Julie Doherty makes the point that it was an opportunity missed. Our capacity should have been supported more. But it was like, “that was set up now away youse go.” Also, obviously, the political situation meant that people were taken here, there and everywhere, and in terms of resources, there wouldn’t have been that much there, I don’t believe. And it would have been viewed, probably, as a wee small cog in the overall war, so to speak. We would have probably been insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. There wouldn’t have been that much discussion of “Here’s this organization, what do we want to achieve with that and how do we support that.”

As I say, we were left to our own devices. And we had no idea…

Obviously, Trisha had her own skills and an ability to unlock money for the project. And at the start, it was small foundations—the Joseph Rowntree Trust, Gulbenkian Trust—all these wee, small charitable institutions that support stuff. Because the main plank of activity at the time would have been teaching young women photography, specifically, because it was and still is a male-dominated profession. That coupled with the fact that we were all working-class and our community was misrepresented. You can see how a funder would go, “ah, that’s ticking our box there, happy days.” You can see how the project would have excited funders; more progressive funders.

The Inner City Trust and Derry Youth and Community Workshop had premises and buildings all over the town and it was through them that we got into the first place, which was in London Street: Will Warren House3. So they provided the premises and again, it probably had everything to do with “Let’s have it in the city center where it’s supposedly neutral.” That probably would have been done strategically from the point of view of giving a gloss [of respectability to the project]. But, it was very much the republican ‘community’. Other than Irene [Camerawork member coming from the Unionist/Loyalist area, The Fountain]… and you couldn’t say… she certainly wasn’t a unionist or representing the protestant community. So the project was never trying to be something flowery and cross-community. And I suppose—I’m assuming this but it’s probably all pretty close to reality—is that it was quickly realised that it needed to be in the community, the republican/nationalist community… So when the opportunity arose to get Westend Park [in the nationalist/republic area, the Bogside], we moved straight up there.

SG: So in terms of the equipment and chemicals and materials that came through those small funds? Or do you know where the enlargers came from at the start, for instance? Was there a relationship with Camerawork London that supported some of that initial equipment?4

JC: Aye, some of that would have happened. But I know we did get a couple of newish enlargers, but initially it would have come from London. [And then there were small grants], here, there, and everywhere.

SG: I’m curious about the travel and trips the group seemed to take, represented in the archive of photographs—for instance to the London Irish Women’s Centre—and how those were funded?

JC: Would’ve been on the same basis. Trisha would have been able to look and say, “There’s an opportunity.” You know the way, more often than not, projects are born out of what money is available. And if there’s a fund there to do this, you’ll end up saying, “We’ll do that then.” That’s how funding dictates what happens because they just say what the priorities are, and then you have to [align your agenda with that]…

If we were all given the choice to get involved in stuff, we would follow our vision and what we would like to happen and get the money, but that’s not how it works. Like, you know, the way allotments would be flavor-of-the-month coming from the government down, so you get money to fucking initiate an allotment, or it was gyms for a while, community gyms. And then computers: GIVE THE MASSES COMPUTERS!

So you’ve organisations that have fuckin’ computer suites that aren’t used or gyms that aren’t used or fuckin’ allotments out the back that have fuckin’ nettles growing out of them. You know what I mean? That’s just the nature of it… They never fund what should be funded, what’s actually an identifiable need. So that’s how they control us. Even if we think we are in control, we’re never in control… Not fully.

Even on the day to day stuff [in Camerawork]. I remember the ACE5 schemes, again government control: bring them in and fund them and then remove the funding if we think they’re not being good citizens. And that’s what happened with the ACE scheme. But the ACE scheme provided us with an opportunity to at least pay wereselves.

Trisha would have been salaried at the start from one of the trusts as a coordinator, and possibly there was an administrator salary. But for everybody else, there would have been ways found to pay them. You know, the way you do: you get creative with whatever money you have. But ACE, I suppose, offered a lot more stability for us in that we could have three or four people on the ACE scheme and be paid that way.

SG: And did you do the same thing that the Derry Film and Video Workshop did where they pooled the money and then everybody got the same or did Trisha get her proper salary and…

JC: I don’t know. I don’t remember in terms of her but the rest of us all got paid the same. I would like to think she did, but I can’t remember.

SG: So how did you come to be involved then?

JC: So, I obviously was involved in all sorts of stuff. Murals were a big part of what I done, creatively. And I think there was some sort of wee outreach program, something teaching darkroom techniques, and I went along to that and was asked, “do you want to come along and join us?” and I said, “of course.”

So that was pretty early on, you know, not at the start but pretty early on, that would have been. And I just took to it. I thought this is great. When you grew up, you were never encouraged either at school or, for the most part, at home. And this was, like, you might not realise it at the time but it obviously had an effect on me in that someone actually thinks that I can do this. You know what I mean? And what Julie says, and she’s right, we were never patted on the back. We never asked to be patted on the back. But nobody ever says to us (1) How’re you doin? How is the form? Do you need support, or (2) That’s really great what youse are doing. You should be doing more of that. Never happened. We were left to our own devices. We were like wee fuckin’ wild children, left to go feral… which was grand… Happy days.

The only encouragement I can recall in terms of Camerawork would have come from people like Declan McGonagle6, and that would have been by supporting some of the stuff we were doing. He would have deliberately said “that’s a great wee exhibition there” and would have backed it up with a wee bit of [financial] support. But certainly not coming from within the community; he was external to the community, even though he’s originally from here.

SG: So that sort of aligns with what Mitchel7 was saying… with all the groups in Westend Park, he’d agree what was going to happen and then he usually didn’t know what was actually happening. But also he said he was defending the project against what he calls the ‘thought police’ and holding space for people to do what they thought was interesting… I know that it’s not a direct compliment or acknowledgment of what you were doing, but in a way the action of that was an acknowledgment that it was important.

JC: Aye, naw. I agree there. The majority view would have been ‘that’s our project’ and when the agenda was going to potentially be deviated from, we would have been put in our place. But we never did do anything to challenge the world view in terms of the movement. And it would have been patronising, I’m sure…“Aren’t they doing wonderful things, our little children here.” But their cage wasn’t rattled enough for that to have happened.

I think we did [think for ourselves]… We might not have known what we’re thinking half the time, but we weren’t micromanaged… We weren’t managed at all. And that was a good thing.

Activists work to remove a barrier placed on a Derry-Donegal border road by the British Army. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Black and white photograph of a group of people trying to move a large concrete boulder by pulling with rope and levering and pushing from behind.

Free Derry Wall being repaired after it was damaged by an army vehicle. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A brick structure in the shape of a house gable end is held up by scaffolding. A car passes in the foreground.

 

Activists replace/augment an English Street sign with its Irish version, 1985. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Two men stand at the top of ladders. One holds a hammer and the other holds a sign reading ‘Sraid Liam’. They are beside a sign reading ‘William Street’. Four men are gathered on the street looking on.

 

SG: I just wanted to take a step back to how you got involved because you were already in the mindset for it, already doing projects with other cultural groups.

JC: Pilots Row was a community centre [in the working class, Bogside area of the city], and there wasn’t that much youth activity other than table tennis and fucking kicking a ball around, and that never interested me. There was a wee garage out the back that wasn’t being used as a garage. It was just a space where there was always stuff to do with cars lying around so somebody must have been using it [at some point], and we basically says “We want our own wee space here. We’re not into the fucking football and whatever. Can we not use here? Can this not be our space?” And [manager] Kevin Logue said, “Aye, sure; what do you want to do?”.

And I says, “Well, sure, we’ll paint it for a start.” So then we just started banging up murals and whatever and that became our space. And that fed into everything from wall murals… That was our wee base where we kept our paints for wall murals, and other non-political cultural stuff like Halloween, for example. It wasn’t all political, it was just where we hung out. [And the things we were able to make and do]… It had everything to do with the fact that we had that space.

SG: So you had the space and you had an interest in doing things with art, but you also were emerging as an activist at that time, and those things started to coalesce together?

JC: Aye, because it was organic and we didn’t have a plan… We didn’t go “Let’s use the arts as a creative tool to…” all that bullshit we write now in terms of funding applications. But we done that organically, naturally, instinctively; and there were adults like Kevin Logue that would have been supportive of it or helped facilitate it, but it was pretty much us. And it did directly feed into our activism because if it didn’t, it probably would have died on its arse.

We were able to use that creative stuff to support our activism. That ensured it just wasn’t a one-off; you know what I mean? And it did matter because we done plays, we done murals, we done too many things to rhyme them all off. But, you know, we dabbled in everything and anything. Whatever was there. Through Camerawork, for example (and I know Trisha brought this over), we were able to get our hands on one of them old barrel photocopy things to make flyers. None of it remains, but we done stuff that was great craic.

SG: Like a newsletter or something?

JC: But not as formal as that… We might have just done a wee cartoon or a wee poster or whatever, depending on what you got fuckin’ annoyed or excited about at the time, you know? It would have been more about making fun of our opponents like SDLP8 counselors, shit like that, having a wee laugh at the Brits.

But in terms of me working within the arts, it went from painting murals to bouncing into a bit of drama and bouncing into Camerawork and then bouncing into the Feile9… and all these other initiatives of the Bloody Sunday Initiative and the campaign. And all them things were just a natural progression. Not even a progression. For me, I was just doing the same thing… It was no different than us being in the garage at the start. Because they all inevitably were small dingy places… and bouncing up to Westend Park, into a cold, flea-ridden building.

SG: Can you tell me a bit more about how the collective was organised?

In terms of the workers? Most of the people would have been there for a year and moved on because the [ACE] scheme only lasted for a year. It used to be you could get up to three years, and that’s what kept the continuity of myself and Julie and Geraldine and Irene, because we were able to stay on that scheme for three years. And then you had to be unemployed for a year before you were eligible for getting back on the scheme again… but we would have found ways to generate a wee bit of income to supplement the dole.

The only thing I suppose that didn’t really feature, when I went, I recollect now, is that we weren’t in a union. We weren’t encouraged, I don’t remember, to be unionised, and we decided wereselves. And there was a union called IDATU10. That was only the only union, to this day, that I’ve ever been in. It was the one union—that’s what first attracted us to it—that organised the unemployed. The unemployed could be members of the union. So we thought, well fuck, that’s about time somebody [organises them]. It’s the same to this day… Like, there was projects like the Unemployed Workers’ Group, which tried to organize the unemployed but nobody is interested in the unemployed because they don’t have any money and they don’t pay fucking dues. And they’re the most vulnerable in society in terms of getting shafted every fucking corner. But because they don’t have the money to pay dues, there’s no union out there prepared to stand up for them. But IDATU was one of those unions. It had a short life, and I think the boy [who managed it]11 probably ran himself into the ground… Like had a nervous breakdown or possibly was corrupted. It was an all-Ireland thing as well…

But I mind being all proud of the fact that I got a wee membership card and all… and you know, “I’m in a union now.”

SG: So, how would you define the political or cultural agenda of the collective?

It obviously would be just to represent our community. That was first and foremost what the political agenda of Camerawork was. I suppose to account for ourselves, by ourselves… because everybody else was doing it on our behalf or not even on our behalf. But as a community, we obviously felt [we were] not fully represented in the cultural world. You know, some would argue that there was an element that we were just a wee propaganda wing of the movement. That was an element to it. But for ourselves as the collective, we were about just empowering wereselves. And developing skills to record our lives, to record the lives of our community. To be all nice and flowery about it: to bear witness.

I wouldn’t have said that at the time because I wouldn’t have that breadth of—not intellect—but it’s not something we would have discussed in any great detail. But that’s, in effect, what we were doing, and that represented the culture of the place. To bear witness, to celebrate us, our communities. Exhibitions like the greyhound exhibition and doing stuff in shirt factories… That was all about celebrating that; recording that [working class culture].

And something we were obviously fully aware from the start, from the get-go (and it’s different now because every fucker’s got a camera in their pocket)… Then the only people who had cameras were foreign journalists, local journalists or the Peelers or the Brits. That’s the reality of it. No one else had cameras. Not in our world. We had this camera. We realised the power of it.

And you quickly realised that as you step out and you have a camera over your shoulder, you were stopped. You would have been stopped anyway, but you were setting yourself up for even more attention from the state. Cause they’re going straight away, “What’s this fucker up to with the camera?”, you know, so immediately you knew that this obviously was a powerful thing.

[And when photojournalists come here] they’re looking for the photograph that tells the story that they’ve been told to go away and record so they’re already coming with their own agenda. “I need something that shows balaclava-ed scary people.” I mean, I suppose we did the opposite and would hone in on where the state was being the aggressor and being the fucking scary ones. The scary ones weren’t the boys in the balaclavas… These [the army and police] were the scary ones, and so you’d hone in on that obviously, and that’s where it is about propaganda. You’re quickly aware of the fact that that was a propaganda war. And you would look for stuff that supported that, supported your struggle.

But for me, it’s all political. For instance, photographing dampness in the Rossville Flats, that’s where it [tells a different story]. Photojournalists aren’t looking for that.

Republican activists placing a banner on the Rossville Flats for the first assembly elections of 1983. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A group of people gather around a ladder at the bottom of a tall, brutalist expanse of wall. One person is up the ladder, fixing a banner which has been dropped from the top of the wall (not visible).

 

Petrol bombs in the Rossville Flats, 1984. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A group of youths with their faces covered by makeshift balaclavas work together to make petrol bombs–tearing fabric for wicks, holding a makeshift funnel, and pouring petrol into glass milk bottles.

Milltown Cemetery during the funeral of the Gibraltar Three, as the funeral comes under attack by loyalist Michael Stone, 1988. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry. ID: A large crowd of people in a cemetery stand, crouch and take cover behind graves as they look to the right of the photograph. One man stands atop two graves holding an Irish tricolour.

 

Visit to Derry by Nicaraguan activists/musicians in the early 1980s. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A mixed group of men and women, both Irish and Nicaraguan activists, sit at low tables. Behind them is a display of photographs of the funerals of the H-blocks hunger strikers and an FSLN flag.

 

SG: This is what I see in those photographs. I see you trying to drill down into the story and looking at a different type of politics: as well as the funerals and the petrol bombs, there’s poverty and people being kept in substandard housing and these forms of social control. But even when you’re representing the same things, there’s an intimacy in the way that the Camerawork photos are taken. Like, inside a wake house or from a particular perspective in the crowd of the funeral, that I think is different from photojournalist’s depiction. But I also think that there’s a bit that’s missing for me because I don’t always know the people. It’s about the audience that’s looking at them… And it made me think about the difference between taking a photograph of the community that’s self-representation to show to the world, and taking a photograph that’s for self-representation speaking back to your own community? Like you’re speaking back to the people who know the faces.

JC: Aye, that’s right. When I look, I think I told you this before, I spot the dead in a photograph. When I look now, I go “dead, dead, dead, dead” (laughs). And it’s everything to do with the fact that you’re from that community.

I was interested in the fact that you were saying there’s loads of photographs of me painting and doing stuff. But, really, there’s very few photographs of us [Camerawork]. There was no self-representation as in ‘the self’ representation. It was about the self as in the collective. You know, they weren’t invented then, there wasn’t a name to it: there was no ‘selfies.’ Do you know what I mean? So it was always, from our eye, it was about representing the collective.

But it’s not the way it has become now, and people document themselves. They don’t document what’s round them. It’s pretty much about the self, and fucking promotion of the self and the recording of the self. That didn’t feature because we weren’t… I mean, we’re all selfish beasts when it comes down to it, but I think we were aware that what we were doing was representing our communities, and so that had an effect on what you were photographing and what you thought you were there to do. You don’t maybe think constantly about it all of the time. But it’s about the fact that you’re from somewhere. I think the kind of journey, so to speak, would be a different journey than say a photojournalist…. where it’s about going in, getting the shot, getting what your editor is after… know what I mean?

SG: I’m curious about the idea of solidarity. There are pictures of exhibitions related to Apartheid and the Spanish Civil War and of trips to various protests and meetings. Were there groups that you were in touch with who supported your work or whose work you supported yourselves?

JC: I think what tended to happen because we were a photographic group, we were in the community, and we were young people, so for anybody that came to visit it was a port of call. They’d come visit us because we could do a better job than a mustachioed pot-bellied Provo12 could do [at explaining what the conflict was about]. It was more accessible, and we, I suppose we didn’t realise it at the time, we probably projected a better, more representative [image]. We certainly weren’t, if you like, kind of media savvy or whatever. But I suppose we were part of it… anybody that came, solidarity groups, they weren’t there in solidarity with us, per se. We didn’t do anything like that in terms of linking up with a similar type of photographic project, other than Camerawork London. We were internationalist in our outlook, but that didn’t shape what we did… It might inform it…[but we didn’t have that network]. Like all you have to do now is type it into a fucking computer, and there’s a million groups that match you… in the Chuckie13 algorithm… you know what I mean? (Both laugh.)

SG: And then I just had a question about how and why it was dissolved? Were there tensions or disagreements?

JC: No, that’s the thing, we were all friends, and we still are friends. So it’s been, I suppose uniquely so, a fuckin’ really good experience in terms of the friendships. Just because we didn’t really know one another until we came together. But for the most part we got on… It petered out simply because people’s lives took over… Julie got married, had children, you know similar with Irene. Geraldine went off to try and find herself…I know later on both Julie and Irene became involved in Derry Frontline14 for a while. Julie began writing short stories about life here and also wrote and produced a play about republican women’s experience in Armagh jail.

It was just a natural progression. I went off to do other things, you know, and I suppose that’s where it was unstable, and that was never provided for… [There was never an administrative core that could carry the thing through beyond the inspiration of the people themselves]. And I certainly wasn’t thinking “Well I’m going to move on, and who’s going to do this and that?” That’s probably good, in some respects. That’s probably why we didn’t fall out, you know what I mean? There was nothing to fall out over. Like any kind of friendship, you accept one another’s flaws in a good friendship. So we had already accepted whatever flaws we had and we came together, it just wasn’t about a professional collective. It was the community, and it was a complete collective in all sorts of ways… You know, that meant that we weren’t gonna kill one another or fall out.

Jim ‘Hawks’ Collins taking a photograph. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Black and white photograph of a young man with blonde hair, his face obscured by the camera in front of it. Behind him on one side is a window through which we see buildings in the distance. On the other side is a shelf that holds a kettle, water urn and teapot.

Image from the Camerawork Derry exhibition ‘Cat on the Bru’. ‘Cat’, in this context, being Derry slang for ‘terrible’ and ‘bru’ being the local nickname for welfare, or ‘the dole’. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Black and white photograph of a woman in front of a dressing table. We see her, out of focus, in the mirror. Her hands on either side of her face. The dressing table contains a number of objects–toys, perfume, a lamp, a Pierrot doll–that evoke the 1980s.

 

A woman displays the damp conditions in her home in the Bogside. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Black and white photograph of a woman dressed in a floral housecoat, gesturing toward peeling floral wallpaper and fallen ceiling tiles in a bedroom. Stuck to the wall are several decorative items including pennants, a certificate and a poster of Che Guevara.

Damp conditions in Derry’s Rossville Flats, 1983. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A young woman stands by the kitchen sink and looks directly into the camera. Her hands are folded on the sink draining board. Behind her, the wall is stained with damp, and the patterned wallpaper is peeling off the wall. The photonegative is degraded with scratches and dust.

Of this photograph, Jim Collins says, “This photo of Sheila Brennan (a local street drinker) sums up Camerawork for me. She’s someone who lived on the margins but also in full view of society, depicted here with empathy and respect.” Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A woman in a winter coat and hat stands on the street in front of the glass windows of a shop. She has one hand raised in a wave and looks directly into the camera.

Protest against poor housing conditions in front of Derry’s Housing Executive using photographs taken by Camerawork, 1986. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry. ID: A group of adults and children stand on the street and hold large photos of the interiors of their own houses, showing damp and mouldy conditions.

 

The Patsy O’Hara Memorial Flute Band. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Young people stand in front of a mural, dressed in raincoats and band uniforms, holding flutes and drums. The band’s drum major wears a sash with the band’s name and holds a staff. She stands in front of a mural that lists the hunger strike’s five demands.

 

Event in the London Irish Women’s Centre. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Women in a group workshop; their faces are animated. One holds a sign that says ‘Lesbian Mothers’ and another in the background holds a sign that says ‘Lesbians’.

 

Demonstration outside Strand Road Police Station, Derry. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Protesters stand in front of a stone wall holding signs that read ‘RUC BULLY BOYS’, ‘POLICE HARASSMENT CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH’ and ‘Are you being OBSERVED?’.

 

Protest against the strip-searching of women prisoners at Armagh Gaol, 1984. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Two women holding signs stand next to one another with other protesters in the background. The one sign that is visible reads ‘EVEN IF YOU ARE PREGNANT YOU STILL GET STRIP SEARCHED’.

 

Message left for a republican living in a unionist/loyalist area of Derry City, 1984. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: Black and white photograph of a hand holding out a note with a bullet sitting on top of it. The note reads ‘Your terror tactics better stop or get out. UFF. Beware. Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) is a militant loyalist group.

 

1985. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Archive of Camerawork Derry.
ID: A helicopter in a grey sky. The photonegative is degraded and shows scratches and dust.

 

Footnotes
1. Police. Named after Sir Robert Peel who introduced paid paramilitary forces, first in Ireland, and then in England.
2. Julie Doherty, a former member of Camerawork, was a key source of information and corroboration of stories and memories. She, along with Irene Burton and Geraldine Norby, were the original members of the collective.
3. Named after a Quaker peace activist who lived in Derry in the 1970s.
4. With thanks to Sandra Plummer for a conversation about her research into Camerawork Derry.
5. The government-run employment programme, Action for Community Employment (ACE) was regarded by many community leaders as an important contribution to local development, both as a training scheme, and as a form of local employment.
6. The director, at the time, of The Orchard Gallery in Derry.
7. See “Number 1 Westend Park and interview with Mitchel McLaughlin”.
8. Social Democratic and Labour Party.
9. The Gasyard Wall Feile, a community cultural festival.
10. Irish Distributive and Administrative Trade Union.
11. General Secretary, John Mitchell, who espoused a militant Left Republicanism.
12. Member of the militant group, the Provisional IRA, or (P)IRA.
13. A nickname for radical republican activists, from the Irish slogan Tiocfaidh ár lá (Irish pronunciation: [ˈtʲʊki aːɾˠ ˈl̪ˠaː]), meaning Our day will come, used by supporters of the (P)IRA.
14. Derry Frontline was a radical cultural organisation and theatre company, focused on work with young people

It’s not for you we did it is prepared by curator Sara Greavu and artist Ciara Phillips. Supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland and British Council Ireland.

Image of poster by Ciara Phillips: We realised the power of it Photographic images, Creative Commons BY-NC-SA, Camerawork Derry. Image description: Black and white photographs arranged in three rows like strips of photo-negatives. The images depict, variously, people making petrol bombs; a helicopter; a woman looking in a dresser mirror, a man in front of Free Derry Wall; a group of adults and children holding photographs of domestic interiors; a group of women, two holding signs that say 'Lesbians' and 'Lesbian Mothers'; a woman waving to camera; people sheltering behind graves in a cemetery; a march with a banner reading 'Free Political Hostages Now'. Text in between the photo strips reads, "It’s different now, every fucker’s got a camera in their pocket... Then the only people who had cameras were foreign journalists, local journalists or the Peelers or the Brits. That’s the reality of it. No one else had cameras; not in our world. We had this camera. We realised the power of it."
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