david bowen – derry

Marty getting the drinks in, 2005

Marty getting the drinks in, 2005


Sandinos Bar during the 'Celtronic' festival, 2004

Sandinos Bar during the ‘Celtronic’ festival, 2004


“Derry” by David Bowen

Over the past 12 years, since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast, Northern Ireland by British and Irish governments, a thriving electronic music scene has flourished in the city of Derry, due to the extraordinary efforts of the ‘Deep Fried Funk’ Promotion Team. Their inclusive attitude and passionate love for music and people, has helped to regenerate the music scene, and bring some of the freshest sounds from around the world to the city for the ‘Celtronic’ festival.


Jamie drags on a cigarette past dawn leaving an after-party, 2006

Jamie drags on a cigarette past dawn leaving an after-party, 2006


And so, as president Barack Obama, following the most recent anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” on January 30th, hails the latest steps in the ongoing Northern Ireland Peace Deal, it is well worth mentioning that young people have been ahead of the politicians in uniting both sides of the river Foyle. Intimate and compelling events, where an open attitude and a fierce desire to get along regardless of the past, are paving the way for greater understanding across the generations to come.



Since 1998 my main project has been to document the worldwide electronic music scene as it has evolved from free-parties and illegal raves in the U.K. to one of the highest selling genres of music. Today young people are united around the world by a music which transcends language barriers and borders.

I’ve been visiting Northern Ireland since 2004 to document the revitalization of the music scene there, and this is a continuing project.


Related links:

David Bowen


Editor’s note:

Comments are open for these photographs as per requested  by David Bowen… thanks, dah

115 Responses to “david bowen – derry”

  • where is jim when you need him.

  • Im sure he is here dude. Itching to tell you how much he loves it :)
    great to see it finally coming together. Big fan of the carlsberg shot.


  • Nice one, the unreported side of Northern Ireland. looking pretty strong.



  • definitely an under-reported side..
    peace n reconciliation, unless by politicians, doesn´t sell papers..

  • john – if i make it over this year you´ll have to join..

  • Happy to see your work, David!! I love it… but why no essay :( I know that you have many photos :)

  • Vibrant colour, bursting with energy, lots to see, and wrapped up in a positive, hopeful,life affirming human forecast.
    I like.

  • I guess to the relief of some viewers/posters burn is back on a more traditional platform with these images …….

  • intriguing set of images. looks like the start of something good!

  • Ah, David B, FINALLY we see a taste — albeit small — of your book-in-the making. Love it in color. It reflects the vibrancy and unrestrained joy of the EM world, which, as you know, I know from the inside and adore.

    Your words are as important as your images here. And yes, my lived experience of the electronic music scene validates your views that the young people have known the secrets of peace for a long time. They could have taught their governments’ leaders a thing or two if only they had asked.

    Can’t wait to own an autographed copy of your book. It’s going to be a smash hit!


    Grandma Techno
    from Detroit, home of House music

  • imants
    it bemuses me when there is a divide between styles, especially when it involves some kind of territorial struggle.
    a bit like the ¨who´s your favorite band¨ question..
    good music is good music whatever the genre.

    audrey – there will be an essay i´m sure in the near future..
    patricia – music and the arts seem to be one of the first casualties of conflict and the people who rebuild the culture are among the best there are.. derry is without question the warmest place, overflowing with talent and positivity.
    they keep you up well after bedtime.

  • can’t answer one comment only………. so no comment

  • no one comment thing.. needs changing
    tuck in ..

  • I am sure that it is about territorial struggle for some, just as the PJs are struggling to stay relevant and employed by the local rag and guard their craft zealously. It is a lot easier for many to operate and produce great work within the traditional boundaries set by society’s need to create a continuum of the photographic tradition. Then again some have no problems just using the photographic media as a incidental tool and disrespect all traditions that went before them. These roads that travel their own path rarely strive to meet similar ends to the journey
    Despite that it’s great to see your work here ……..after three images I am saying to myself well where is the next one.

  • Early start for me so I will leave it as that for now…….. sheep counting for now

  • David :)))

    happy happy to funny see some of your light-shift swing here….how long it’s been? ;)))….like john g, i really dig the Calrsberg shot…and for only 3 images, it alreadys sets up an ‘essay’ for me, about youth (my own too), the topsyturvy calypso swag of music and being young, god damn, i remember those days of being happy as a puppy after a piss and carring more-than-i-could-carry number of pints back to the table and think: yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, this is life! :))))….damn, how those days swept away…..

    dig the drooling beer drops in the 1st pic and his chestire, holy-fuck-can-i-make-it-back grin/expression …and the control of the long-exposure in the #2…

    and the last pic is like, oh, u name it, a memory for me from irish cinema or literature: Cal, sundaybloodysunday, reames of light, the back of me truck, derryordust, all of that….

    and remember, that shot of the kids on the grass and the boat in the distances: that has to be the cover of yur book! :))))

    electric woopie…

    gotta fly….



  • p.s. i LOVE the idea of a presentation that strides the middle ground between essay (say more than 10 pics) and SINGLES….and i think it’s a great idea that Burn should pursue: a few pics that flesh out a context without having to be along essay….great job Dad-vid bowen and Burn team :)))

    even if i had not context, i’d think:” these pics are bumping my bump! :))))

  • Maybe something critical should be said .. hm, difficult if one always try to be positive.
    Just 3 pictures, is just a glimpse into what the whole thing may be. It is a good contrast however, between the “normal” b/w fighting everywhere North-Ireland pictures and these party-orientated in vibrant colours impressing pictures. One could ask, is there a life in between? I am curious to see more – maybe not only of people drinking beer and having parties, but maybe also of their day-to-day life between events, or if this is not subject matter – how do they prepare, what are the surroundings. In short words: Context.

    Looking forward to see more.

    Ah, that 3rd picture – I am asking myself, was it neccessary to use a wide-angle lens here? Would not stepping back a few steps and using a more normal lens give a better, less distorted picture? Or, if distortion was intention – the use of a fisheye a better choice?

  • YES!

    at long last… i’ve been waiting a good while to see some of your work here db.

    Love it, and when will we see more? this is the sort of material that begs to continue…
    electric colour and the smell of beer… hmmm i think i’m in need of a weekender : )

    Marty for president!

  • as per requested by David Bowen, comments are wide open….i have changed the notation under his bio…please also forgive our tech glitches this morning…Anton is shooting in Tokyo and i the same in Rio…we will do the best we can under these circumstances…we know you all understand..don’t you? please please…smiling…..many thanks…

    cheers, david

  • nice…off to the local pub..
    big hug

  • I kind of like going back to the traditional idea of still shots as the essay for a change.

  • I like :) Good.. Can`t wait for the essay..

  • David… I do like your work, but could you please elaborate a bit on your intentions on creating these pictures? What do they mean to you? Just kidding… having followed most of your comments and links for the past year now, I feel like I’m the front seat watching the development of your project… thanks for sharing, and good luck with the rest of the edit for the book dude…

  • imants
    ¨These roads that travel their own path rarely strive to meet similar ends to the journey¨
    so true.. yet it´s not so difficult for us all to understand the ends which we produce.. i think it is from traditional photographers towards art applications where the understanding lacks.
    in the moment and viewing work, people have the chance to open their eyes to alternative applications of photography, and also have the chance to understand what they do themselves from another angle.. i´ve tried to exhibit a classic use of editorial photography, which will be easier understood than ballens work, yet as photographers i think there is a responsibility on us to connect with it all.
    a rock band struggling with the ´idea´ of pop would be bemusing.. and paul mcartneys new music may be rubbish because he only ever listens to himself.

    the beer drops get me too.. was a real snap no-time-to-think photo..
    anton really pushed the idea of what singles could be with his posts updates on japan, and audrey carried it through.. thinking on that along with the spot news idea of panos´s geece enabled the use of burn as an editorial platform for me.. the derry work, although there are binders full of film, would be incomplete as an essay right now – yet editorially this seemed a good time to submit something.

    you have named what i need to shoot more of really. i have covered probably 6 or 6 venues between derry and belfast over the years – celtronic and derry being the main ones. if i get the chance to go over this year i am thinking on shedding more light to the city itself. the work i have done has always been heavily pitched for publication and has always made it to print.. next trip will be for me alone.
    on the lens choice – i only use one lens.. a short zoom.. i set up manually and always pre-focus to given distance to same time in the moment. no big fan of distortion myself.. yet often standing next to or very near whoever i am shooting (given cramped conditions in venues), wide is the only way.

    i really want to do something good for an essay for burn which is why it is taking a while.. want to blend something with music which will lend an idea of the way it works shooting.. flashing.. random.. occasionally jarring.. occasionally smooth.. am on to it :ø)

    thanks very much. humbled to be up here and very grateful to yourself and anton for finding a way across three time zones to communicate this morning.

    make mine a white russian.

    me too

    good to see you on monday – visit bergen again soon.


  • Oh, and Imants… indeed… thank Dog we’re back to regular programming… the last essay was so deep I almost drowned :))


    What are the point of these, crudely made images of drunks and druggies? Why when there are so many suffering with AIDS in africa, and with the devestation in Haiti, do we have to see people blatantly enjoying themselves in some mindless way?
    And why are they in colour? Whats wrong with traditional grainy black and white?
    I think you are exploiting these people and thats just low.


  • David B,

    great to see your work published on Burn…these are powerful shots, full of fun and energy (and the lack of it in the aftermath): only three, but enough to delineate a story… waiting for next updatings of your editing work here on Burn… and for the final essay (with music, of course ;)

  • Nothing deep to say, just that I really like the photos.

  • music
    a universal language….

    **can’t wait to see more… I love your use of COLOR and the feel of your images… **


  • Congratulations David B!

    Your work is wonderful. I am in difficulty in choosing my favourite out of these 3, all are fabulous – having three different themes. Looking forward to your final essay.

    best regards,


  • Neither art, nor documentary… I would even say, not for family album either… What is this? Why is this? If these pictures were a part of essay, then it might make sense, but even then… While now… It’s fine to take pictures if you like the process of doing it… but if you publish them…

  • david – what is it like for you to shoot this over such a long period? if this is an extension of your own taste and way of being, how does that affect your experience and is it a challenge to ‘see’ sometimes, (forest thru trees, not because of drink :))

  • david, I hope to see what you describe in your essay/book, here I cannot, so far. love the first one!

  • Looks like both art and documentary to me. Why shouldn’t the good times of young people be documented? Why would that be considered less valuable as a historic or cultural artifact than kids starving in the Sahel? And why shouldn’t whatever we choose to document be approached with artistic intentions?

    Okay, okay, I know that last one causes a lot of debate in art crit circles, but my answer is “no reason.”

    Nice work David, and I’m talking about much more than these three. Though to do more than fawn, I’ll say that I, like Thomas, would like to see more of their lives, at least as it relates to the club scene. Unless club going youth has changed radically in the past several years, that music and partying ethos will show throughout their environment and there will be interesting off-shoots as well. Funny how I speak of “them” as subjects in an experiment. Them is me for many a year (I used to lead a quiet… life.). But of course if you are only interested in the public lives, that’s certainly as valid as you want it to be.

    And to get back to what really matters, I hope you’re at least exploiting them for a beer or two–that, at least that, on top of this moral travesty that is photography.

  • David,

    Fun to see you on here after our discussion on “face” the last couple of days.

    Cool photographs, though I think Thomas was right when he mentions context. Party pictures are party pictures – what exactly speaks to these being in Derry? Could be London, Manchester, Aberystwyth, or wherever. That’s why I love the ravers and cruise ship shot so much (of course that’s part of your bigger piece).

    And we’ve already gone over your aversion to “celebrity” but I think it would be important to see and hear about some of the movers and shakers of the Derry scene – how is it a few individuals (DFF?) can affect the lifestyle of many rather than just anonymous party people. What does it take to put on these nights? Lets see the bedroom offices, living room (dj) practice spaces, the sleeping on floors, etc etc.

    I love your style and I look forward to more. Congrats on getting on Burn. I like the three image format as well.

    And lets not forget Derry’s most famous :) band, The Undertones (a couple of whom I got to know – long story).




  • The Undertones…….ahhhh the Undertones…gotta love them..!!!!!!

  • Is he drinking Budweiser!!?? Good topic. Would like to see more.

  • David, here’s three “damnits” for you:

    Damnit, why only three photos? I wanted to see more.

    Damnit, you make me wonder why can’t I be young again, and this time come of age in a psychologically repressive society than the one that raised me?

    Count your blessings, son. Keep shooting.

    Damnit. When do I get to see more?

  • that should read “less pyschologially repressive…”

  • Quirky, odd, interesting moments. It’s seems like a lot of us want
    to see more. That’s great David. These images speak to me, but that
    may say more about me than the images themselves, nahhhh, I want to
    see more.

  • Hi David.

    I remember you saying, during the debate we had here on PJ’s in the field in such places as disaster zones, that the subject matter your choosing to photograph may seem frivalous. I don’t think anything is particularly frivolous, but rather, what you bring to it and, what you express through and out of it. I personally think it is as important to document this part of our culture as any other part. Actually, I would say its very important, as music, and the culture that goes with it, is a huge part of who many of us are, in which a whole different aspect can be expressed through visual imagery.
    I’ve been trying to document Indian festivals for also many years now, and a huge part of it for me is the way it makes me feel. The fascination I have with it, which I hope will be expressed through the images I am photographing.

    We all should know its not easy getting these sorts of photographs when people are extremely rowdy and your being bumpt and pushed and pull this way and that, through, often, heavy crowds.

    Well done David. Look forward in seeing more.


  • David,

    Love it. I can smell the beer and feel it spilling on my shoes. Love the color and energy. Awesome dude. Looking forward to more.


  • “We all should know its not easy getting these sorts of photographs when people are extremely rowdy and your being bumpt and pushed and pull this way and that”

    But it is great fun! :-)

  • Honest and involved pictures. Usually the wide-angle lens interferes with the subject (for me personally) but I really like these photographs. There is something I can’t quite put my finger on that makes them compelling and I think that is a strong attribute to any image/series of images. The less you can use to say something strong, the better. So for this little selection a big thumbs Up!

  • Erica.
    Shooting over a long period is something I have always respected in other photographers and so it is something I have always done. There are many strands to my music work, (many countries and cities), all of which are their own little stories. In fact every commission required an edit of 30 photos submitted to magazines, and these narratives would be as biographical as they were outward looking. Shooting over time gives the benefit of hindsight to earlier work – it enables me to ´get over´ the unseen clichés as my relationship to the people and place changes, along with my perception as I grow older. 2 of the photos above are captioned with the names of the people in them. I have done this as some shoots – derry, the balkens, Barcelona.. and more – have resulted in life long friendships.. With derry in particular there is an emotional investment – real friendships – and much more than ´subjects´ and ´access´ I think of a visit in terms of friends and how I am able, beyond taking photographs, to encourage what they are doing. That´s the way I like it.. I have never been a hit-and-run type photographically, despite the appearance of many photographs being quickly snatched. With my way of seeing – it has been pretty consistent across the music work.. I do not separate life, friendships and photography because they have been one.. every weekend new faces n new places for more than 10 years – it became easy quite soon to tell the unusual from the commonplace, photographically.. and the good people from the nasty.. Ethical events from commercial.. so on. The longer the project and the more visits to a place, the more layers are peeled back.. it´s only over time that i´m aware of just how many layers there are, and the more rare photographs present themselves.
    i like rare photos.. uncommon exposures of common moments which all can relate to.. :ø)

    Eva :ø)
    The book I am working on is in a sense unrelated to the derry work – which is a continuing splinter project from the whole… for you from derry – http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_D7BO-iIFIl0/Scj7ymZml3I/AAAAAAAAAwk/CbjIFJ9Z9xg/s1600-h/035.jpg
    With this burn post I did not want to lend an artists statement to the photos and so used them in an illustrative editorial manor.. the linked photo above perhaps fits the idea more and the linked text below from 2008 says a little about the book have been working on..

    ¨ Why would that be considered less valuable as a historic or cultural artifact than kids starving in the Sahel?¨
    I utterly agree with you.. I wonder though if it is our intentions as photographers which let down the side of positive editorial photography? I wanted to take tough subjects when I was a teen because I thought it would be treated with more sincerity… in the end I have tried to use a similar approach and aesthetic as I did then in a different area, remaining a photographer rather than a music photographer – since prefixes are rather a ball and chain…
    With my book, the current title of which is ´wasted´, it is the public life.. venue life, that I am immediately concerned with.. was inspired by in the mid 90´s.. now.. with derry perhaps I need a broader vision for the smaller geographical circumstance, whereas I have had a tight focus on a wider geographical circumstance for the book.. I guess I will see how it works out.
    Interestingly a friend in derry has written to me today saying that yours and charles and thomas´ perspective needs to be considered.. he has written, ¨ One of the comments in Burn was really inspiring, about capturing the what happens behind the obvious, the bedrooms offices, the greater context. Really thought provoking.
    Would be incredible to see your interpretation of this if you do head over.¨ (cheers to emmett)
    You know.. i have stacks of photos from behind the scenes.. after parties good n bad.. wherever i have been i have always photographed excessively and beyond my means, (using film}, so there are definitely photos in the archive waiting for their moment.. perhaps even a navel gazing essay about life on the road for a mid 20´s addict who sleeps rough in a disused factory during the week and has drivers and 5 star living at the weekend.. but no real friends :ø) there are certainly snaps in mind for derry and other places which are already heading down the road you guys suggest and i think that is where my work in derry and croatia will head towards.

    hi charles.
    always respect your perspective as one from the inside.. even if were are in different rooms, it´s the same party.
    ¨Could be London, Manchester, Aberystwyth, or wherever.¨ or canada, argentina, india or bulgaria :ø) thats the point with the ¨wasted¨ book i am making.. apologies for any confusion between the greater project i am doing – have finished shooting – which is the week in week out trawl around to photograph the wider electronic music scene, and the projects spinning off that organically which will now continue – in derry, the blakens, and places like that.
    the two are related yet different and will appear very different on publication or in exhibition.. and you guys are absolutely right.
    to photograph one small place i need to go deeper than while illustrating a world-wide phenomenon.. what you have said is nail-on-the-head really. i have some background photos, yet as mentioned – my previous trips to derry have been part of a different project altogether… moving forward will no doubt change the focus of the subject matter..
    and that´s why only 3 photos rather than an essay for derry right now :ø)
    on celebrity and fame… i know i have issues .. it´s 2 years since a couple of friends committed suicide.. a dj and a photographer colleague.. and of course i have seen, lived and waded into situations which still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.. drugs + sex + rock n abuse.
    there are good reasons why i threw myself away from the thrashing floor of weekly editorial commissions which i cannot go into here.. having seen the best n worst of the music industry, and having been on occation physically and mentally jarred by it, it´s going to be a long comedown of thought before perspective returns.. 2 years gone and counting.
    one promoter who still uses me has said it is because the photos are good and because i tumble into the affray when i see something wonky going on.. a party policeman.

    it´s also worth noting that none of the photos in the book, nor the photos above, have ever been published to the best of my knowledge… the work for magazines which took an hour or two.. snapping the artists and the like.. was just a way of getting an income to continue.. magazines as grant givers facilitating what i really wanted to record.

    ahh – tell me about it..
    i´ve never had a ¨job¨ and earn´t my living for much of my life from photographing parties..
    last year, pulling myself out of that runaway train, produced quite a clunking comedown.. still.. i did not want to be 40 and still doing it the way i did… would feel too distant from the center of things and too tough on my health, which is already screwed…
    37 now.. there is still time.. :ø) yes there is.
    there are a few more derry photos, and a bit more context, in the blog post here http://bophoto.co.uk/wpwastedbook/?p=8
    and if you click the ¨so far….¨ banor the whole blog will load and show the process i´ve been going through to make my book, along with maybe 4 or 500 photos.. (bnw not colour as i found the editing easier that way)

    It´s refreshing for someone to pick up on just how challenging the conditions to photograph are.. being punched, bitten, elbowed, pushed, kicked.. i´ve gone through more broken equipment than most. there are the tough towns and events.. slipping in blood on the dancefloor in buenas aires.. having Israeli army deserters threatening me in goa.. bottled in the back in Birmingham.. generally though these are the minority .. the majority hold a special kind of atmosphere of tolerance.. I have never wanted to hang round looking for the worst of the worst, just as I have not wanted to work for magazines who demand the ¨tits n teeth¨ shots of beautiful people.. balance and all that.

    the first 2 years were a wonder.. the next 5 were excess.. the last three were work.. utterly work.. and addiction to photography and the substances which kept me going.
    and now – the 2 years since i lept off the train and had a family.. now.. that is fun fun fun.

    how to find satisfaction photographicly having been so heavily spoit?
    hmm :ø)


    many thanks for the probing .. apart from being extremely strange (no right of reply in magazine publication) it has been very helpful.

  • sean

    the way i work is instinctive.. in mind i have the mantra of ¨shapes, layers and moments¨ and in editing i try to find photos which demand a second look.. a double take.. the drips of beer or the hair strangly backed up over the cars boner.
    has to be wide in such claustrophobic settings.. wide, pre-focused, guessed background exposure due to flashing lights and under-rated hand held flash to add depth.. all brings about a tight in-focus circle around the subjects.. knowing the lens coverage means if i cannot get my face behind the camera, (which is most of the time indoors in the dark) i can at least get the camera where it needs to be quickly.

    cheers all

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