Paul Seawright’s series of work entitled Sectarian Murder is a revisiting of the sites of sectarian attacks during the 1970’s close to Belfast, [Seawight, Sectarian Murder]. The series of art photographs has been extensively exhibited and present a disturbingly varied yet cohesive set of images accompanied by newspaper quotes from which all allusion to the victims religious or perceived religious affiliation has been redacted.
Seawright’s images don’t appear to have ever been created for anything other than exhibition. The six square format colour images surrounded by their bottom weighted white digital frames containing the newspaper synopsis’ of these individuals last hours leaves the reader of the images with a lot to look at; a lot to pause for in order to try and make any sense of what happened. It’s not the photographs that are causing the need to continue to look but that they evoke a sense of emotional unrest in terms of finding no sense as to these murders.
The sense that it is possible to come to seems to be the intention of the work and appropriate to the subject nature. Seawright appears to confirm this when asked about his work by the Imperial War Museum in their video interview of the artist. Seawright is asked given that, “Much of your work is not explicit in its context or narrative, the viewer has to piece it together. Can you talk about this?” [IWM Video on Vimeo]. He responds by talking as to how if his work is, “too explicit it becomes journalistic…if it’s too ambiguous it becomes meaningless” (ibid) He’s stating that as a creator of art documentary he works within the necessary boundaries of the genre. He states he’s aiming to create work, “that’s visually engaging people that draws them in…….and then gives its meaning up slowly” (Ibid).
If “good art” (Ibid) as Seawright states, allows the viewer to engage then the context and the narrative of the work needs to be less directed by the author. He states, “You must leave space for that to happen and if you don’t you’re back to an editorial picture in a magazine” (Ibid). His images gave me the space to pause, to reflect on what I was seeing and what I was reading. They describe death. Caused by murder. It’s a subject that needs time and space for reflection if the depth of the reality is perhaps to be felt as art photography can allow us to feel. If the news of these murders was being reported at the time they individually happened I would be more expectant of a contextualised and directed experience of a report be it that it may or may not use photography within the reporting.
Imperial War Museum, Seawright, P, [https://vimeo.com/76940827 – Last Accessed 15/03/2017]
Seawright, P, [http://www.paulseawright.com/sectarian – Last Accessed 15/03/2017]