Photographer: Josh Adam
99 Peace Walls was photographed within a two-week time frame alongside working at this year’s Belfast Photo Festival. After spending time in Digbeth, Birmingham, where I undertook an earlier project, Céad Míle Fáilte, which focussed on the dwindling and aging Irish community, I decided to turn my attention to the inhabitants of Northern Ireland. I was a foreigner to the country which provided an opportunity to observe the city of Belfast and its people as an outsider, which did not necessarily equate to being distant. All I was equipped with were preconceptions, a small bank of knowledge from my initial research and a Mamiya RZ-67 camera with a bag of 120 film. What I was met with was an apparent social, religious and political divide. This is not something I purposely set out to portray through the work, but it evidently had a profound effect on me; unionist and loyalist colours are present in subtle ways, from clothing to cars, flags to flyposting.
I never aim to portray people differently due to their background, upbringing or socioeconomic status. I therefore owe a lot of my environmental portraiture influences to photographers such as Alec Soth and Rineke Dijkstra, who often employ the Deadpan Aesthetic in their work. This means the person becomes an ‘object’ of photographic interest, but also a ‘subject’ too; they present themselves to the camera, and in turn, I am permitted to present them to the world. Of course, there are many conversations to be had about the role of the photographer and artistic bias, but I believe environmental portraiture has a way of portraying part of the human psyche that at the same time is impossible to record. It’s a weird dichotomy but I love it.