Photojournalism Hub x Riverside Studios 03rd June

Mariusz Śmiejek is an independent photographer, visual storyteller, and educator with over 20 years of experience specializing in capturing the raw narratives of human and social conditions. Renowned for documenting a wide range of subjects including post-conflict communities, refugee crises, child slavery, human trafficking, and systemic abuse. Recipient of prestigious awards in international photography competitions, his work has been exhibited globally and featured in renowned publications globally including The New York Times, National Geographic, and the British Journal of Photography, among many others.

Not Surrendering tells a visual story specifically about the struggle of loyalists to shape a distinct identity in post-conflict Northern Ireland. The documentary narrative introduces us to the daily lives of the local British working-class as well as members of its illegal paramilitary groups. Recognised as terrorist organizations until recently, these associations still carry weight, sow fear, and control Northern Ireland’s Ulster.
By focusing on the spaces which the book’s subjects inhabit, aspects of their daily lives, and the particularities of their neighbourhoods separated by ominous ‘peace walls,’ the photography brings to the fore the psychological state of siege which permeates working-class districts in Northern Ireland. The story also spotlights the atmosphere of despair which accompanies each successive generation – trapped socially and mentally in unprocessed traumas from which it cannot escape.
The aim of the Not Surrendering is to increase awareness and knowledge about processes of reconciliation in post-conflict societies that are divided territorially, politically, nationally, and religiously.
The story this volume highlights the difficulties NGO and other grassroots projects face while working with difficult youth from families deeply involved in the conflict.
The photographic images illustrate the tensions arising during celebrations of national identity, during which especially members of paramilitary groups openly fan the flames of hatred towards their neighbours. This directly affects the indoctrination of the youngest who actively participate in numerous events of this type, leading often to recruitment of young people into paramilitary associations or organised criminal groups.
This has been a personal, individual project from the very beginning to the end (2010-2020); partly supported at the very end stage by Artists Emergency Programme grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The National Lottery.

Roland Ramanan is a London based documentary photographer, born in 1966 with a background in music and education. He developed a passion for photography around 2010, initially through street photography. In 2012 he started a long term documentary project on a vulnerable group of people who gravitate towards a corner of east London called Gillett Square which is to be published by Dewi Lewis as the book “Dominoes”. This work has been featured in Vice magazine among others and has won various awards including being shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society documentary awards 2023. In 2022 he was one of the finalists in the Portrait of Britain awards. Roland’s current project focuses on the London roller skate scene and its relationship to black culture.

Dominoes is a unique and vibrant mosaic of the lives that float in and around a particular corner of Hackney in London’s East End. The book is populated by intimate pictures of people who have experienced addiction and pain as well as the deep joys of the community of which they are a part. Gillett Square was derelict and underdeveloped for years until, in the 1990s it became an experiment in urban regeneration. Like the Dominoes they play in the square, those lives are often precarious. For ten years from 2012 I was privileged to be allowed into the lives and homes of some of those I have met, to photograph their fights and struggles; their families and their lovers. Some of these people are now my friends and some are no longer with us. The participants I am closest to form the heart of the book and I’m sure that bond will continue. The work gives us honest glimpses into lives that we may often turn away from but always with a sense of hope. Dominoes touches on universal themes of love, death, hope and the evolution of urban communities.

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