Tony Donovan's "Ardoyne, Belfast, Ireland 1971-1972" at NESOP

© Tony Donovan

Tony Donovan of Ivoryton Studio's portfolio of work from Ardoyne, Belfast, Ireland 1971-1972 will be exhibited from November 16, 2009 to January 8, 2010 at The Garner Center for Photographic Exhibitions, New England School of Photography, 537 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA. There is an opening reception November 19, 7-9 pm.

Donovan, who was a 26-year-old filmmaker at the time, ended up by chance living in a brick row housing estate in the small community of Ardoyne, in north Belfast, Ireland and photographing its residents with his Leica. "To a lot of Irish Americans, [Ireland] was the promised land," said Donovan. What he saw when he got there was more like a police state.

"At the time the images were made, no one was interested in the work--people didn't want to talk about it," Donovan said. His time in Ireland coincided with some of the worst civil unrest caused by paramilitary groups who waged a war against British rule. Donovan worked on a scaffolding gang rebuilding houses that were burned during the conflict. He says there was around 60% unemployment among the men of the community, as well as high rates of alcoholism and suicide. Some of these problems continue to this day.

As an outsider, Donovan had to gain the trust of his neighbors, and he often photographed children playing in his neighborhood. His images capture the contradictions in Ardoyne's street life, at once tender and supercharged with tension. The black and white carbon pigment prints for the exhibition were made by Still River Editions from the original negatives.