It Starts With Silence

Available here for purchase.

'It Starts With Silence'  is an emotive and politically relevant photobook.

The Law

Until October 2019, Northern Ireland, was the only part of the UK, where terminating a pregnancy was illegal, in almost all circumstances. This included pregnancy resulting from rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, where survival outside the womb is impossible. 

The Offences Against The Person Act 1861 regulated the provision of abortions in Northern Ireland. The Abortion Act 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland. The ambiguous legislation meant that medical professionals were reluctant to provide advice and information with regard to terminating pregnancy. There was a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for any person who underwent an abortion and for anyone providing assistance. Medical professionals were not willing to take the risk of facing legal proceedings. 


Around the time that Denise became pregnant, there was mounting pressure on the Northern Ireland Assembly to change the abortion laws. On 30th November 2015, the High Court in Belfast ruled that the law, which prohibited termination of pregnancy, in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape, was a violation of a woman’s right to personal autonomy, and constituted a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ‘Right to respect for private and family life’. This ruling triggered a series of appeals, court cases and votes, which ran parallel with our own personal tragedy. In 2017, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and refused to legalise abortions in Northern Ireland.

People have been campaigning for access to reproductive healthcare in Northern Ireland for over 50 years, and as the gravity of our desperate situation unravelled, we too became actively involved in campaigning for the law to be changed.

Denise made contact with pro-choice activist groups, who we joined on marches in Belfast and Dublin. With the help of Alliance for Choice and Together for Yes, we canvassed in Ireland, door-to-door, to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. We lobbied MPs in Northern Ireland and, with the help of Amnesty International , we met with MPs in London and official committees in Belfast, including a delegation from the United Nations. We provided evidence, as interveners, to the UK Supreme Court and shared our story with the media, in order to highlight the perverse effects of the law in Northern Ireland. Our hope was that other people would not have to suffer as we have.

The Current Situation

We welcomed the abolition of the unduly restrictive law, in 2019. However, at the time of publishing this page, in the spring of 2021, despite the law being changed, access to reproductive healthcare continues to be heavily restricted

Northern Irish political parties remain defiant on ensuring that people do not get access to abortions in Northern Ireland. First Minister, Arlene Foster, warned the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to "back-off" when he advised the Northern Irish government to implement the law change. The battle for essential healthcare for people with crises pregnancies continues.

Our personal story is but one of many stories. Women, girls and families have suffered and continue to suffer, as a result of being denied terminations, often in harrowing circumstances. This work only scratches the surface but my intention is to add another voice and help to highlight the injustice and oppression, to which families in Northern Ireland continue to be subjected. 

The Book Concept

‘It Starts With Silence’ takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey, a search for understanding and solace. It depicts my struggle to see beauty in the world, whilst knowing that I was powerless to help my wife and daughter. 

It is about living in the political landscape of Northern Ireland, a place to which Denise was desperate to return, a place that I am still seeking to understand, whilst attempting to reconcile my feelings and beliefs, and reflecting upon how our personal tragedy would have evolved, had we remained living in England.

Employing photography, texts and ephemera, I try to communicate the complexities of my emotions, while reflecting upon state sanctioned violence, forced birth, baby loss and lack of access to compassionate healthcare.

In 2019, my book dummy was shortlisted for the Unseen Photobook Award. 

The 2021, Kehrer published book, has been designed and produced with great care. The images below are spreads from the book.

Please click here to order a first edition book.

This book is dedicated to all who have suffered oppression, to all who have shared their personal trauma, to all who have fought, and continue to challenge injustice.

The Book

Texts by Richard Gosnold

Designed by Richard Gosnold and Loreen Lampe.

Hardcover, 16.5 x 22cm

142 pages plus gatefold

82 colour and b/w images

Galaxi Art Supermat (FSC) 150 & 90gsm 

ISBN 978-3-96900-022-9

With thanks

Thanks to Amanda Palmer for providing an excerpt from 'Berlin', as the backing track for this information  video

'Berlin' written by Amanda Palmer, published by Eight Foot Music, Admin by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing.

Thanks to Jordan Verzar at Top Shelf, NSW, Australia, for your help.

Made with the support of The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Using Format