30 years on
The aim was to find images from 1983, from our recent and violent history and try and replicate photographing some of these same places. The search for archival photos was tougher than expected as it wasn’t through the internet but through collections that they were found. Most have been seen before but some have sat in printed piles, in yellowing contact sheets and as faded prints in boxes for no one but the photographer to have seen.
The locations too had changed so much. New names for streets, new buildings in place of the old and burnt down.
The search for archival images ultimately lead to a photographer who had worked at capturing some of the events of July ‘83. It was not an agency press photographer or journalist that ended up giving the bulk of the content. It was a one room studio in a run down Rajagiriya shopping complex, the business premises of a freelance studio photographer. 30 years ago, in July, when he heard rumours of mobs looting and burning shops and homes in Borella, he closed down the studio and instead of heading home decided to take his camera and walk to Borella and from there to Fort documenting what was to become history.
Unlike today where digital cameras and ever more advanced phone cameras seemingly document every step of every newsworthy event, the few images captured of the 1983 violence stand as a legacy to the darkest period of our recent history.