After years of mounting ethnoreligious tension between Protestant Loyalists, Catholic Republicans and their respective paramilitary organizations (namely the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Republican Army), the British Armed Forces were ordered to Northern Ireland in August 1969 under what was known as Operation Banner. Deployed by the British Government at the request of both the Unionist Government and the Catholic community, the British Armed Forces were tasked with providing routine, additional and specialist support to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Initially welcomed as a neutral force by the minority Catholic population (who had been under attack by Loyalists, the B-Specials and the RUC), the British Armed Forces soon fell into disfavor with the Catholic population due to performing British Government mandated operations that were biased against said community; as exemplified by the imposition of the Falls Curfew and Internment. The Catholic Community's perception of the British Armed Forces was further soured by the events of Bloody Sunday in which twenty-six unarmed Catholic civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by the British Armed Forces' 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. The aforementioned in conjunction with the rise of the Provisional IRA (who stated a commitment to armed action in defense of the Catholic community against the RUC, Loyalist paramilitaries, the British Armed Forces and the Loyalist community) and the rise of the Ulster Defence Association/ Ulster Freedom Fighters (whose declared goal was the defense of Loyalist areas and combat of Republicanism through sectarian killings of both Republicans and Catholics) led to escalating violence and civilian casualties in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
In 1970, a 20 year old Michael Pobjoy joined the British Armed Forces' 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. He was first deployed to Northern Ireland in 1972. During his 4 tours in Northern Ireland from 1972 to 1975, Pobjoy participated in continuous daily patrols where he was responsible for observing and reacting to threats against both the community and the British Armed Forces, searching for known and suspected terrorists, and gathering intelligence. Although he was engaged in conflict and was, above all else, responsible for the safety of himself and his fellow Paratroopers (Paras), Pobjoy did carry a camera with him at all times. In the brief moments when his patrol was in a defensive position, Pobjoy would photograph. While the opportunities to photograph were few and far between, Pobjoy was nevertheless intent on creating a personal record of both the, "Torment and sadness...[he] saw as well as the incredible beauty of the Irish people." As such, Pobjoy created a distinct body of work that documents Northern Ireland from the perspective of an active Para during the Troubles.
Father, Son and the Holy Ghost is an ongoing collaborative project between Michael Pobjoy and his son Ben Pobjoy. Using the elder Pobjoy's original photographs as the project's starting point, the younger Pobjoy intends to document contemporary Northern Ireland with emphasis on its many communities, players and people. Father, Son and the Holy Ghost intends to be a multi-decade spanning examination of the Troubles and its lasting effect on those it directly and indirectly affected. Overall, the project is motivated by a curiosity to explore the notion of 'collective memory'. More specifically, the way it shapes community, familial and individual identities as constructed by both participants and storytellers (from all sides of this conflict).
Loyalist area. West Belfast. 1972.
Operation Motorman, White Rock, Belfast, July 1972.
Republican area. The Ardoyne. August 1975.
Teen yells at Paratrooper patrol. New Lodge, 1972.
Weapons search. Falls Road. September 1972.
Paratroopers taking a break. Armagh. 1975.
Weapons cache. White Rock. 1972.
Anti-paratrooper graffiti. New Lodge. 1972.
Paratrooper with finger on the trigger. Belfast. 1972.
Favorite IRA ambush spot near Falls Road. Belfast. 1972.