Eight years in the making, Noel Bowler’s photo book is an homage to the free press

The role of journalists has never been more important than in an era of “alternative facts.” Irish photographer Noel Bowler did his own investigation into newsrooms and with compelling results.

“I was inspired by research referring to the ‘downturn’ of newspaper journalism back in 2012, before embarking on a self-funded international photographic project spanning eight years and four continents, to investigate this troubling narrative of print media.”

Little did the Dublin-born photographer Noel Bowler know back in 2012 that his ambitious, long-term project would take on a somewhat different tone at its conclusion. The oft-declared ‘print is dead!’ klaxon didn’t quite materialise: in a Press Gazette UK poll from August, while 48 per cent of respondents said they were now reading more digitally than in print because of ‘stay at home’ guidelines, 17 per cent said they were reading more news in print during the pandemic. So, newsflash: all news platforms are being consumed like never before.



Inside The Financial Times newsroom, London. From the series Above The Fold © Noel Bowler


But Bowler’s fly-on-the-wall lens began resting on newsrooms long before a renewed interest in the press. His first port of call were the workspaces at The Irish Times, followed by America’s The Washington Post and New York Times, the UK’s Guardian and The Sun, India’s The Hindu, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun and Yomuiri Shimbun to name but a few whose presence of staff is indicated by desk detritus only; as if the journalist or editor has just slipped into a meeting. These human-free, but human-felt, tableaus offer glimpses into these enigmatic places where decisions and policies that affect so many are formed and framed for mass consumption.


Inside the The Washington Post newsroom, USA. From the series Above The Fold © Noel Bowler. Header image: Inside the Guardian newsroom, UK © Noel Bowler


Bowler has exhibited a selection of works during the project’s progress, and last month launched a crowdfunding campaign to publish them in a beautifully designed photo book. Entitled Above the Fold, this handsome tome will offer glimpses into the physical spaces of the newspaper office that “have been shaped by many years of evolution, adaptation and work practices that straddle both public-interest rationales and commercial objectives.

“(…) While these places may be separated by geography, culture and politics, they are all inherently linked by one fundamental attribute; the commitment to inform, educate and reinforce the importance of a free and honest press.”

The campaign, which will only proceed if it makes its fundraising goal of €17,830, closes this Sunday, December 6 and has so far raised almost €15,000.

Also: those who rediscovered the joys of the jigsaw during the pandemic will love Bowler’s limited edition puzzle.


Limited edition 520-piece puzzle of The New York Times newsroom


Read more: Tony O’Shea’s yesteryear photographs of Ireland are at once bleak and beautiful

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Read more: Wes Anderson gives his blessing to a glorious new coffee table book 

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