Reconstructions: The Troubles in Photographs and Words


Words by Steafán Hanvey

Photographs by Bobbie Hanvey

October 2018

Unique photo-poetry book celebrates the art of two intertwined lives by going behind the photographs that defined the Northern Ireland Troubles.



Reconstructions is a wondrous outburst. Steafán Hanvey’s poems are nobly dishevelled, and they cry out to be read.’ – Michael Longley

‘A unique and heady blend of documented violence and photographic memory.’ –  Medbh McGuckian

‘Prose-poems of poignancy and power, Reconstructions [is] a stunning symbiosis of word and image.’ –  Adrian Rice

‘Authentic, innovative and keenly-honed prose poetry. An astonishing and visceral work that strikes clean to the often-dark but always-shining heart of Northern Ireland. A heady combination of words that set the pictures alight.’ – Billy O’Callaghan

World-renowned Northern Irish photographer, Bobbie Hanvey, captured some of The Troubles’ most defining and devastating moments. Bobbie is lauded as much for these photographs as he is for his iconic portraits of figures like Seamus Heaney, Gerry Adams, Brian Friel, and Ian Paisley.

In Reconstructions, these photographs take on even greater resonance when set in context by Bobbie’s eldest son, singer-songwriter and poet, Steafán Hanvey. Inspired by the photographs, he often witnessed coming to life in the darkroom, Steafán’s memories of a childhood less ordinary are presented in a lyric poetry filled with startling imagery and insights that capture the wit, cadences, anguish, and dreams of the people of Northern Ireland.

Reconstructions daringly conflates the public and the private, and acts as a timely reminder of just how futile and unnecessary internecine conflict really is. But most of all, Bobbie and Steafán, father and son, have produced a book that is a testament to the strength and resilience of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

About the Author

Steafán Hanvey was born in Downpatrick, Co. Down and is an artist and musician. In addition to producing two albums, he has directed and toured a multi-media performance, Look Behind You! A Father and Son’s Impressions of The Troubles Through Photograph and Song, incorporating songs, spoken word and projections from his father’s collection. Steafán is currently producing a covers album of anti-war songs, a documentary film, and is also working on his third studio album.

Bobbie Hanvey was born in Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh. Through photographing the aftermath of bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland, he became one of the country’s leading press and portrait photographers. In 1985, 1986, and 1987 he was Northern Ireland Provincial Press Photographer of the Year and in 1985 and 1987 he also won the Northern Ireland award for Best People Picture. His photographs have appeared in Vogue, The Village Voice, The Irish Times, The Economist, The Guardian, NPR, and more recently, The New Statesman. He has two published collections: Merely Players: Portraits from Northern Ireland (1999) and The Last Days of the R.U.C, First Days of the P.S.N.I. (2005).

Praise for Reconstructions

‘Steafán Hanvey  is an archaeologist excavating the soil of Ireland to find bones and traces of the past; he is a poet-farmer digging the language of land of Ireland to extract powerful images and propitiatory yields. While Reconstructions is a haunted book transpiring sorrow, pain, ire, trauma and desolation, it is above all a work about love, life, reassembling, regeneration, and hope.’
Review of Irish Studies in Europe

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