Gareth McConnell (b.1972)
To the Beat of the Drum, 2021
Born in Carrickfergus in 1972, Gareth McConnell is a photographer and publisher living in London. He is the founder and editor in chief of SORIKA, an ongoing collaborative art project. He co-curated Smiler: Photographs of London by Mark Cawson at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 2015. His work is the subject of seven monographs and is held in art collections including UBS, British Council and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He is a long-term contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Dazed & Confused and AnOther Magazine.
In April 2021, McConnell returned to his hometown Carrickfergus and nearby Larne, to shoot a series of portraits of young people. The subjects, aged between 7 and 26 years, were all members of local Loyalist marching bands. The artist’s aim was to transcend the cliched depictions of young people from Protestant working class communities. While highlighting the instilled loyalties that are particular to Protestant culture in Northern Ireland, they also reflect a youthful need to belong, and to conform, that is universal.
The portraits bear vivid colour tones, atmospheric lighting and occasional blurred outlines, creating a sense of everyday otherworldliness that is typical of McConnell’s work. These single rather than group portraits undercut the communal spirit of confidence that marching bands often exude. Instead, his young subjects’ engagement with the camera is tentative and uncertain. Bathed in soft light and colour, they stare enquiringly into its lens or off into the distance as if distracted.