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: