Exclusive Preview of Bill Kirk’s Exhibition of Iconic Images
This Friday, September 26th, as part of The Aspects Irish Literature Festival, Glenn Patterson will host the opening of this remarkable exhibition hosted by celebrated and iconic Newtownards-born photographer Bill Kirk, at Sync Space, Dufferin Court, Bangor.
Bill was among the vanguard of local photographers who, while global documentary photography was focused firmly on the ‘Troubles,’ offered a more complex and heartfelt perspective on Northern Ireland.
Kirk’s life has been shaped by two major passions – cycling and photography. Cycling became a powerful and motivating force following the early deaths of Kirk’s parents due to TB. It was his own life-threatening battle with illness, alongside his redundancy as a draughtsman at Short’s, that prompted Bill to study photography at Belfast’s Art College. He was driven, he says, ‘by a naïve belief that photography could make a difference.’
As conflict erupted in the north, Bill says; “There was a lot of anxiety; everybody was anxious. We were in a fog, not knowing where we were going.’ The approach he brought to his art was inspired by photographers such as Lewis Wickes Hine (whose documentary photography helped bring about a change in American child labour laws), by Robert Frank and, of course, by Cartier Bresson. This dual commitment to social and aesthetic responsibility lies behind a body of work which is steeped in a sense of common humanity, whether its subjects are eminent local figures or random instants of life. Bill’s portraits are warm, perspective, and sometimes funny.
His streetscapes of Belfast at times recall images of Paris or Chicago. His perspective was a fresh one; and a refreshing one in the context of documentary photography during the ‘Troubles.’ Even while working for the Northern Irish Tourist Board, Bill eschewed fluffy-cloud whimsy in favour of a more sophisticated aesthetic.
For Aspects, Bill is exhibiting part of a project where he has located subjects from previous images and photographed them today, hearing the story of the time since they last met.
Sync Space is an inspirational, creative, innovative and collaborative multifunctional visual imaging studio and gallery in Bangor. Currently facilitating Sync Imaging, it is managed and directed by found and photographer Nick Patterson.
This FREE exhibition opens at 7pm on Friday, September 26 and runs until Sunday 28.