Portraits from a 50s Archive
Related Exhibition: Portraits from a 50s Archive
Publisher: Belfast Exposed Photography
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The book, Portraits From A 50s Archive includes an essay by Kevin Bean called 'Roads Not Taken', an essay by Liam O'Ruairc called 'Out of the Albums' and a foreword by Professor Marianne Elliott, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool.
In 'Roads Not Taken' Kevin Bean considers how much current understanding of Northern Ireland's post war history is informed and sometimes obscured by shadows cast backward from thirty years of violent conflict. Drawing from the interview material, he looks beyond recent experience in an effort to determine how Northern Irish people lived and how they saw their future as Europe emerged from World War II. He asks, did they, for instance, share the sense of confidence which characterised Britain's 'new Elizabethan age' and found expression in movements for social reform and welfare, building, housing & road programmes, architectural innovation, scientific advances and events like the Festival of Britain? He questions whether Northern Ireland in the 1960s did indeed 'stand at the crossroads' and whether other roads - roads not taken - were possible, raising questions of contemporary relevance around issues of tradition, modernity and historical determinism.
Liam O'Ruairc's essay, 'Out of the Albums' focuses specifically on the photographs collated and produced for this project. He discusses the nature and cultural status of 'amateur' or snapshot photography, its strict conventions and tendency to focus, almost exclusively, on positive events. He asks what can we know about a time and place represented in photographs of whose private meanings we have no knowledge. He considers the new public function of these photographs, as historical evidence and asks us to think about why each picture was taken and what was left outside the frame, what is consciously forgotten as well as remembered. He also suggests that these pictures could have been taken in any Western European society during the post World War II period.