Foreword by Gilles Peress
As a global media, hungry for images of conflict, descended on Northern Ireland in the sixties, Bill Kirk became one of a vanguard of young local photographers whose portraiture of their society was more heartfelt, complex and intuitive than narrowly documentary.
Bill Kirk’s life has been shaped by two major passions; photography and cycling. In the context of a difficult youth (both of his parents died early from TB) and a turbulent society, each offered Kirk a valuable means of engagement.
Born in Newtownards in 1937, Kirk became an enthusiastic cyclist at the age of 14, photography came later. In the mid-60s he bought a camera with which to take family pictures. At the eruption of conflict at the end of the sixties, however, he began to use photography as a way of making sense of the events flaring up around him. ‘There was a lot of anxiety,’ he says. ‘Everybody was anxious. We were in a fog, not knowing where we were going.’ Photography was a way of exploring the contours of a bewildering new order. The lens may have been that of a gifted amateur, but the instinct was that of a photographer. It took a crushing double blow, however, for Kirk to pursue photography professionally.
Kirk began his professional life as a draughtsman at Shorts. He was dissatisfied but, with a young family, it was still tough being made redundant in 1971. At the same time he was diagnosed with TB. Following a long, dangerous battle against the disease, Kirk decided to study photography at Belfast’s Art College, under Don Carstairs.
The Book will contain 80 fully restored images from his groundbreaking series from 1974. The foreword has been provided by Bills good friend and one of the worlds leading photographers Gilles Peress, a former president of magnum photos.