retro-security

This fell out of an old book I was thumbing through. It just struck me how much has changed in the past 14 years since it was taken. Not least me with a head of hair!

In 2008 Polaroid announced that it was ceasing to produce all film. Last week the last stock shipped. So that's more or less that.
When this photo was taken Polaroid was the absolute cutting edge, it's now become absolutely obsolete. All in the matter of a decade or so. Only when something has disappeared does it take on an air of mysticism.

Just as Polaroid announced it's imminent demise, up sprung Poladroid, the digital equivalent. Flickr is now awash with nostalgia (again). It's incredible how much technology/photography has progressed since then. However, with all the latest tech, lenses and £3000 camera bodies, we still want to make our photos look like shit. Don't get me wrong, shit's fun, I like this sort of shit, but claiming it was some sort of halcyon period of photography is a bit daft.

This Polaroid was taken in 1996 in Maghaberry Prison. Cormac Heron and I did some volunteer work for a week helping put on a Christmas Pantomime. The prisoners put on the show and their families came to the prison for Christmas. As we entered the prison, we had a photo taken for security. This was before swipe cards, retina detection etc etc. Each morning you held your photo against the glass and the big metal doors clunked open. As high tech as the Polaroid I suppose.

It was taken a few years after the Shankill Bomb & Greysteel and 2 years before the Good Friday Agreement. Back then the place was in bloody chaos, a bloody mess. We'd sit in the prison recreation hall in the morning having tea with the prisoners. Some would be very open about why they were there, bank robbery, shoplifting, murder, gun possession, explosive possession etc

Some 'political' prisoners had been inside since the '70s and had no prospect of release. 2 years later they were all let out under the Agreement. Looking back it's impossible to convey how unbelievable this was - that the whole thing seemed to be drawing to a close. We were all drawing a line and moving on. It's incredible how much has changed since this photo was taken.

Similar to nostalgia for the Polaroid, some are still nostalgic about the good old days - when milkmen, breadmen, postmen and policemen were being shot. Not me. I prefer to look ahead, give 'change' a big hug and a cup of tea. Claiming that the 'troubles' were a halcyon period in Irish history, rather than what they were, a bloody mess, is a bit daft also.

So, so-long Polaroid, I won't miss you for a second.

Written on: Wednesday, February 03, 2010
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Each morning you held your photo against the glass and the big metal doors clunked open…

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