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Making Petrol Bombs, Belfast - Homer Sykes

31 May 2010

During the 1980s I covered the ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland on assignment for both Newsweek and Time magazine.

Most of the press stayed at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. There was much camaraderie and competition. When I was shooting for Newsweek I often worked with another photographer who would typically be shooting for Time magazine. We would share a car and spent our time driving around the city and going up to Derry looking for trouble.

On this occasion, Catholic rioters, were using a couple of burnt out cars they had hijacked as a barricade from which to lob petrol bombs and stones at the British Army. The soldiers would respond with rubber bullets. A group of young Catholic teenagers were dispatched to collect bottles with which to make petrol bombs. I photographed a group of these kids coming down a back alley; mostly they were not wearing hoods and balaclavas and didn’t mind, or understand, that they were being photographed.

This was not a situation where there was any trust involved. I was an onlooker, I was a member of the press, I was documenting what was going on. It was dangerous, volatile and unpredictable and that’s why for my own security I often worked with another photographer.

I also worked for the weekly political magazine New Society during the 1980s. Some of my photographs are featured in The Other Britain Revisited: Photographs from New Society at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London until September 26th 2010.

Homer Sykes has worked on commission for clients across the world. However he principally worked for what used to be called the weekend colour supplements The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Observer, You Magazine and the Sunday Express magazine. He also shot weekly news for Newsweek, Time, and the former Now! magazine, covering conflicts in Israel, Lebanon, West Africa and Northern Ireland, as well as weekly news in the UK.

Alongside commercial magazine assignments, Homer has worked on personal documentary projects. These have often been turned into books and exhibitions. He is the author, and co-author-photographer of eight books about Britain, as well as Shanghai Odyssey and On the Road Again.

Photographer since 1968, EPUK member since 2010.

See more work by Homer Sykes

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