Book review: Bobby Sands by Yan MORVAN
by Allan LEONARD
11 October 2018

Sorj Chalandon ends his foreword with a question from Bobby Sands’ memorial card: “Will tomorrow be remembered?” He is with Bobby Sands, a photobook by Yan Morvan.

It is said that a journalist creates the first draft of history, and Morvan’s images remind us of the bleak and miserable times of the prison hunger strikes by Irish nationalists, from March to August 1981.

Morvan made several visits to Northern Ireland around this time, and a comprehensive selection of his photos are presented in a large, 300mm tall, 25mm thick, green cloth hardbound book, published by André Frére Éditions. There are 125 black-and-white images, many printed edge-to-edge across a two-page spread (this works better in the middle of the book, noticeable interpage cropping elsewhere).

As a reminder of a predigital age, the large reproductions reveal the (satisfying) graininess of the film.

Morvan would have been one of many photojournalists who descended upon Northern Ireland for key events during the Troubles. His imagery reflects the staple fare of children smiling for the camera, teenagers rioting, people protesting, security forces maintaining order, and ordinary citizens weaving themselves throughout.

Humorously, there are several images of subjects giving the photographer a two-finger salute; I wonder if Morvan realised that they were playing with him.

I was fascinated by the images that displayed flyers and posters, because of my previous work on the Troubled Images project at the Linen Hall Library, where we catalogued thousands of these items. Seeing these messages in situ brings them to life.

Bobby Sands is its own catalogue of images and messages of a specific episode of Northern Ireland’s story. It can be considered as a second draft of history — and one worth spending time to absorb and reflect upon — to remember the various dimensions of our past in order to forge a better tomorrow.

Morvan discussed this book and its creation, in an interview on France 24:

PHOTOS

MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P016 March in Support of Hunger Strikers at Maze Prison
March in support of hunger strikers at Maze Prison. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P054 RUC Police Officers in the Falls Area
RUC police officers in the Falls area. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P080 Riots in Catholic Neighbourhoods
Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods. (c) Yan Morvan
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P082 - Bobby Sands Day of Death
Bobby Sands day of death. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P092 Riots in Catholic Neighbourhoods
Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P094 Riots in Catholic Neighbourhoods
Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P146 Riots in Catholic Neighbourhoods
Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P162 Derry
Derry. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P184 Funeral Convoy for Paul Whitters
Funeral convoy for Paul Whitters. (c) Yan MORVAN
MrUlster 20181011 - YanMorvan - P210 Riots in Catholic Neighbourhoods
Riots in Catholic neighbourhoods. (c) Yan MORVAN

 

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