Painting curbs, marches and anti-protocol rallies captured in new photographic exhibit

LOYALIST and Unionist culture captured through the lens of a young photographer features in a striking new exhibition in Belfast.

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

The exhibit includes images of a man painting curbs, fire crews hosing down homes near an Eleventh Night bonfire 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 during his ‘What we have we hold’ exhibition at Artcetera Studio in Belfast. Photo by Mal McCann

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

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

“I also had an interest in Irish history and politics. I discovered Belfast Exposed and other bands. I was fascinated by all the old photos from years ago and old footage from The Troubles .


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

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

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

The show is titled “What We Got, We Got” – a phrase commonly attributed to trade unionists.

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


A bus on fire last year. Photo by Andrew Johnston

“It was a project I was doing for the university about the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland and Protestant/Unionist demography.

“A lot has happened as a result of Brexit, the (Northern Ireland) Protocol and the DUP crisis.”

Mr Johnston said he would continue to take photos around the twelfth annual protests.

“It’s in my interest to document things,” he said.


A march in east Belfast last year. Photo by Andrew Johnston

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

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

Mr Johnston said his peers and lecturers at the Belfast School of Art have been very supportive of his art.

“All the responses I’ve had have been very positive,” he said.


Fire crews hose down homes in Newtownards, Co Down. Photo by Andrew Johnston

“In the course, people had different styles.

“My style is a classic documentary style. It tells it like it is and there’s nothing hidden behind it.”

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

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


‘What we have we hold’, a photographic exhibition by Andrew Johnston, will continue until tomorrow

Michael E. Marquez