It Starts With Silence

Available here for purchase.

The publisher, Kehrer Verlag, has collaborated with me to create this emotive and politically relevant photobook - 'It Starts With Silence'.

In the Autumn of 2015, my wife and I were delighted when it was confirmed that she was pregnant with our first child.

The ten week scan was a relief, when the midwife informed us that "the baby has lovely long legs". It seemed that all was well.

Tragically, at nineteen weeks' gestation, we were told that the baby might be incredibly ill. We found out a week later that she would die during pregnancy, during birth or shortly after being born. If the baby survived birth, she would suffer terrible pain and be offered pain relief, until she stopped breathing. The fate of our prospective child was a heavy burden for us and our world began to crumble, as we searched for answers. Eventually, we realised that our hopes and dreams would ultimately result in pain. We were yet to find out the extent of trauma we would both be forced to endure.

Had we been living in England, we would have been given the option to terminate the pregnancy, as the condition was so grave. 


Advice from the National Health Service website read:


”If your baby is diagnosed with Edwards’ syndrome during your pregnancy your doctor will talk to you about how you want to move forward. They will discuss the options of either continuing with the pregnancy or ending it with a termination, as it is such a severe condition… If your baby is diagnosed with Edwards’ syndrome, either before birth or afterwards, you’ll be offered counselling and support.”


However, 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. However, people could travel to England and pay for abortions in private clinics.  The NHS would not provide terminations in Northern Ireland or England, for people living in Northern Ireland.

Denise was too ill to travel to England and was forced to continue with the pregnancy. We were left in limbo, living each day not knowing if that would be the day.


The Law

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. My wife and I were met with silence at every stage, during and since we learned about the fate of our daughter and, sadly, our circumstances were not unique.

Activism

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.

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.  We shared our story with the media, in order to highlight the perverse effects of the law.

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.

I am aware that some may find aspects of this work challenging. 

In the spirit of Mark Rothko, I invite you to come with me, into my world, where I will share my vulnerability, with you. 

Mark Rothko spoke of his art:

"You've got sadness in you, I've got sadness in me, and my works of art are places where the two sadnesses can meet, and therefore both of us need to feel less sad."

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

The published book, has been designed with great care. The images below are spreads from the Kehrer published book. The book has been produced and we are waiting for the shipment to arrive so we can dispatch to the new owners.

Support the Project

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. The battle for essential healthcare for pregnant people 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 highlight the injustice and oppression, to which women in Northern Ireland continue to be subjected. 

Please share a link, to this web page, with your social media contacts, to help draw attention to this work. 


'It Starts With Silence' - Photobook

Kehrer Verlag publish high quality photographic books. Their catalogue includes internationally acclaimed titles and they have published books with challenging themes, which are emotionally charged. I am grateful to the team at Kehrer for collaborating with me on this difficult but important body of work.

If you purchase a book, you will receive a meticulously produced, first edition, artwork, which is politically and historically relevant. 

You will also be helping to contribute another voice to the campaign for reproductive choice and compassionate, insightful healthcare.

The book is thoughtfully presented with:

Printed hardcover, 16.5 x 22cm

Thread stitch binding

Printed end papers

English language

142 pages plus gatefold

82 colour and b/w images

Texts by Richard Gosnold

Designed by Richard Gosnold and Loreen Lampe

Galaxi Art Supermat (FSC) 150 & 90gsm 

ISBN 978-3-96900-022-9


Please click here to order a first edition book.

The photobook has been expertly produced, printed and bound in Germany, and is ready for shipping.

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.

Credits

Book designed with Loreen Lampe. Loreen, thank you for your insight, expertise and patience. You helped to deliver a book that exceeds all that I could ask for.

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

All additional funds raised here will contribute further towards the cost of producing this photobook.

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