Born in the North of Ireland in 1961, Seán Hillen's first photographic works were of key moments in the public life of his hometown Newry as well as Belfast and Derry - including a Hunger-Striker's funeral and the ensuing riots; an H-Block march; a Republican parade; a Corpus Christi procession; a Mass Rock outside Newry; an Orange march.
However, faced with the widespread incomprehension, indifference or indeed ignorance about the situation 'over there' in Northern Ireland, Hillen recognised that other measures were required. The hard dramas of the photojournalistic tradition needed to be reconfigured; there was a need for the images to seduce the viewer. In photomontage, he found a powerful tool for engaging with diverse audiences.
This exhibition at the Centre Culturel Irlandais includes a selection of Hillen's documentary photographs which, juxtaposed with his photomontages, establish a dialogue between two apparently incompatible frames of reference: the documentary and the fictional, the hard world of brute facts and a more intensely personal, visionary world drawn from the imagination, collective or otherwise. Paradoxically, the photomontages come to be more 'real', striking a more authentic gauge than their orthodox, straight components.