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A strange image that is not immediately definable: from the sheltered interior of a shop, the viewer’s eye looks towards a housing estate opposite; but the picture is dominated by armed soldiers patrolling the street. In Clement’s photograph, the central figure among the passing soldiers enters into an irritating relationship with the sculpture of the Madonna in the shop window. It is an image symbolic of a city torn, at the time, by religious conflict. It was taken in February of 1991, when the photographer spent a couple of weeks in Ireland, invited by the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig. During that time, he travelled to Belfast in Northern Ireland for a short visit.

Over thirty years later, the photographer decided to look through the archive of images produced during his artist residence in Ireland. This led to the publication of the photo book Belfast, with 114 pictures never seen before. The gloomy appearance of the city points towards the time when the impact of the Northern Irish Civil War conflict between Catholic and Protestant militias could be seen and felt everywhere. Clement photographed quickly with his Leica, moving rapidly through the streets, while seeming to remain next to invisible at the same time. A grey sky hangs over every scene: the rain-soaked pavement, the angular framing, the fleetingness of every encounter – all combine to create an overall atmosphere dominated by sadness. “The visits [to Belfast] were very intense,” Clement remembers, from the viewpoint of his typical role as an observer. “I always walk the streets and look for pictures that correspond with my own state of mind – the place somehow echoed my feelings of loneliness and melancholia.” He sees the street as, “a fantastic space wherein everything unfolds, everything is possible and everything is seen. In other words, the street reveals existence. If I want to frame my own existence, I can just go out on the street and mirror myself in the lives in the streets. It’s what street photographers do. It’s a way of getting closer to the reality they are part of.”

“The conflict was central [to] my impression of the city. Everywhere you had this feeling of an imaginary enemy,” he explains. His images are imbued with a sense of heavy malaise, and the slow process of rapprochement between the conflicting parties. The hope for better times ahead was still in its infancy, and it would be years before the Good Friday Agreement was reached in April, 1998, pacifying the most violent stage of the Northern Ireland conflict. This photo book catapults the viewer of today into the tough civil war era of former years. It does so without any written explanations, revealing history alone, from Clement’s subjective and very emotional perspective. (Ulrich Rüter)

Image: © Krass Clement
(from: Belfast, RRB Photobooks, 2022)
Equipment: Leica M6 with Summicron-M 28 f/2 and Summicron-M 35 f/2

Find more images from the book Belfast in upcoming LFI Magazine 4/2023.
© Courtesy RRB Photobooks

Krass Clement

Born in Copenhagen on March 15, 1946, Krass Clement grew up in Denmark and France. He is a self-taught photographer. Following his first photographic phase in Paris, he trained in Film Direction at the National Film School of Denmark in Copenhagen. After graduating in 1973, he returned to photography. Clement regularly published his work in impressive photo books. More than 25 publications have appeared since 1978, including many series that focus on just one place or city. One of his legendary photo books is Drum, which was shot during just one night in a rural pub in Ireland. In 1997,  Dublin was published by RRB Photobooks, who have now produced this latest photo book, Belfast.

RRB Photobooks
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