Curb painting, marches and anti-protocol rallies captured in a new photo exhibition

LOYALIST and Unionist culture, captured through the lens of a young photographer, are on display in a stunning new exhibition in Belfast.

Andrew Johnston has launched his show despite only graduating from the Belfast School of Art earlier this week.

The exhibit features images of a man painting curbs, firefighters hose down homes near a bonfire on Eleventh Night and an anti-protocol rally.

The 23-year-old from east Belfast said his love of photography stemmed from looking at old family photos.


Photographer Andrew Johnston at his ‘What We Have We Hold’ exhibition at Artcetera Studio in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

“I had an elderly aunt and used to go to her house every other weekend,” he said.

“She had boxes of old photographs and I always enjoyed browsing through them.

“I was also interested in Irish history and politics. I found out about Belfast Exposed and other groups. I was fascinated by all the old photos from years ago and old pictures of the riots.


Unionist leaders, including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister, on the podium at an anti-protocol rally. Image by Andrew Johnston

“That inspired me to go out and record and document ordinary life.”

The exhibition officially opened last night at the ArtCetera Studio on Rosemary Street in Belfast.

The show is titled “What We Have We Hold” – a phrase commonly attributed to unionists.

“All the pictures were taken last year in 2021,” he said.


A bus burned down last year. Image by Andrew Johnston

“It was a project I did for the college about the Northern Ireland centenary and the Protestant/Union community.

“A lot has happened because of Brexit and the (Northern Ireland) protocol and the crisis in the DUP.”

Mr Johnston said he would continue to photograph around the annual Twelfth Demonstrations.

“It’s an interest of mine to document things,” he said.


A march in East Belfast last year. Image by Andrew Johnston

“If something is going on and I hear about it, I might have a hard time staying at home. I like to go out and record what’s happening.”

He added: “I always go out and document the eleventh (night campfire) and the twelfth. It’s a hobby of mine.”

Mr Johnston said his colleagues and faculty at the Belfast School of Art were very supportive of his art.

“All the reactions I’ve received have been very positive,” he said.


Firefighters hose down houses in Newtownards, Co Down. Image by Andrew Johnston

“In the course, people had different styles.

“My style is a classic documentary style. He says what he is and there is nothing behind it.”

The exhibition is open until tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

:: Andrew Johnston is on Instagram (@andrewj.98)


What We Have We Hold, a photo exhibition by Andrew Johnston, runs until tomorrow

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