Men and my Daddy

Bricks, riots and white-washed murals, but Adam Patterson's latest exhibition is far from just another 'Troubles' display

Adam Patterson’s latest exhibition Men and my Daddy, is set in the smaller of the two galleries in Belfast Exposed. It is comprised of just ten still prints alongside an installation of found photographs. Despite its diminutive size, the exhibition packs a serious visual and emotional punch.

The prints are unassuming in their display, pinned to the wall rather than framed. This compliments a key feature of the exhibition: impartiality, both artistically and politically. Each shot offers an insight into the lives of members of a small north Belfast community, during a time of transition and change.

The images speak for themselves, with no explanatory title-cards accompanying them. Rather than being confusing, this is refreshing, allowing the viewers to interpret their own sense of meaning.

Patterson’s photographs are up close and personal with an array of subjects, touching family scenes alongside bonfire building.

With the wealth of similarly themed photography available, there is always the concern that exhibitions of this ilk can suffer from derivative images. I am pleased to say that this is not the case here and the work is a real breath of fresh air – it is far from just another ‘Troubles’ display.

That is not to say that the work is not without conflict. The subject of one shot is a youth throwing a brick, whilst another picture focuses on two hooded figures being soaked with a water cannon.

However, these photographs are far removed from the riot images displayed in the mainstream media – blazing sunshine and a bright azure sky contrast to the subject matter.

More shocking than the behaviour on display is the change a different perspective can make. One could be forgiven for, at first glance, mistaking the water cannon shot for two children playing in a garden sprinkler. The photographer’s quick eye and hair-trigger finger are a blessing when it comes to shots such as these.

The use of different focal-lengths and snow-reflected light lend a balletic quality to an atmospheric image of a boy holding a seed. For me this shot, set against a rolling evening sky, is the most poignant of the exhibition. It is more subtle and inspirational than the promotional image of a mural being whitewashed.

The name of the exhibition comes from a found photo of UDA men in the 80s, on the back of which was scrawled by a child, ‘men and my daddy’. This picture, along with other period images of the paramilitary organisation in the 80s and 90s, occupies a wall in the gallery.

They are displayed next to photographs at home, ‘my mother and me’. When juxtaposed with Patterson’s own images, these photographs add another layer of meaning to the exhibition – again, it is up to the viewer what meaning to infer.

For this reviewer, the most prominent issues raised appear to be both concern and hope for the youth depicted in times of change. However, regardless of what any one person may take from the exhibition it must be recognised as a great combination of form and content.

The Men and My Daddy exhibition is at Belfast Exposed until November 12.