["United Kingdom","Northern Ireland"]

John Duncan



John Duncan was born in Belfast (1968) and studied HND Documentary Photography at Newport in Wales (1989) and Fine Art Photography at Glasgow School of Art (1992). He currently lives and works in Belfast.
Recent exhibitions include: Bonfires and then Beacons, Helsinki Photography Biennial and Observers: Photographers of the British Scene from the 1930s to now, curated by Joao Kulcsar and Martin Caiger-Smith, Galeria de Arte SESI Sao Paulo (both 2012); Loaded Landscapes, curated by Natasha Egan, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago and A Shout in the Street Collective Histories of Northern Irish Art, curated by Declan McGonagle, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (both 2007). Publications include Bonfires co-published by Belfast Exposed, Photoworks and Steidl 2008.



As a follow up to the Bonfires series this work looks at how political change is being negotiated at ground level in Northern Ireland. Belfast City Council's Peace and Reconciliation Action Plan and Bonfire Management Programme, has sought to bring about better community relations and to address environmental issues. Beacons have now replaced Bonfires in a number of communities. The first one of these was introduced in 2008 at Woodvale in Belfast after careful negotiation with the local community. In that year there where still over eighty Bonfires in Belfast alone. In 2010 and 2011 there where thirteen Beacons being used in Northern Ireland.

The Beacons burn wood chips and arrive by lorry a few days in advance of the Eleventh Night when they are set on fire. This means that the gathering of material for burning that would often start months in advance is no longer needed. Outside of Belfast, other councils have also introduced other health and safety measures that include crash barriers at the base of the bonfires and covering the stacks with woodchip panels.


Boom Town

John Duncan started the Boom Town project in 1999, before the global financial crisis unfolded and when there was more optimism in Europe surrounding urban regeneration. Boom Town charts Belfast’s redefinition of cultural, social and material values in the process of transforming the city. In the many building sites throughout the city, developers’ billboards are emblazoned with optimistic architectural views of what is about to be constructed. Duncan’s work has added poignancy against the backdrop of the Troubles “the architect’s dream of a brighter future still a sketch, like our political agreement, on a landscape that needs radical social, as class, cultural and political redevelopment.” Nicholas Allen