Belfast Photo Festival now on view

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Belfast Photo Festival now on view
Image Credit: The Wave © Lorraine Turc.

BELFAST.- This edition of Belfast Photo Festival, we explore how artists in the contemporary moment are interpreting the idea of the ‘journey’ as a subject of art. The festival features projects that approach this centuries old preoccupation from new and surprising angles: from works that chart global surges in civil unrest; re-trace epic pilgrimages; explore the passage of time; map out unwritten histories; and chronicle journeys of self-discovery that look inward rather than out at the world.

For over two centuries, photography has been used to capture the world around us. From its beginnings, it has been a tool for exploration, showcasing to viewers parts of the world that had previously been unreachable.

As a medium, photography thrives off our desire to see more and to know more: an urge most of us now feed through our insatiable engagement with images on social media, where far off lands and people on the other side of the earth are reachable at the click of a button. In this globalised and highly digital moment, what does it mean to ‘journey’, and what unknown worlds does photography specifically allow us to see?

Riffing off of photography’s long history of capturing our world through images, this edition of the festival we follow photographers as they lead us on journeys through a variety of places, histories, and perspectives.

Featured exhibitions

Hannah Starkey

• Dates: Until 10 September
• Location: Ulster Museum, Belfast
• Times: 10:00am - 5:00pm | Tue - Sun

This year marks 25 years since the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. On this occasion, Belfast Photo Festival presents a newly commissioned body of work by renowned photographer Hannah Starkey which honours and celebrates the women who helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. Research has demonstrated that women’s participation in peace processes results in more durable and stable peace. Analysis of 40 peace processes since the end of the Cold War shows that, in cases where women were able to exercise a strong influence on the negotiation process, there was a much higher chance that an agreement would be reached. Starkey’s artwork aims to ignite a conversation about the impact and importance of women’s leadership, not just here, but globally. The 21 portraits in this exhibition highlight some of the many women who have been pivotal to peace building and community activism in this country through their work in both the political, cultural and social spheres. Through exploring these— too often untold—stories, we hope to shine a light on the legacies and impact of women's activism here and to inspire younger generations of women to make their voices heard.

Alain le Garsmeur

• Dates: Until 22 July
• Location: Belfast Exposed Gallery
• Times: 11am - 5pm | Tues - Sat

A survey exhibition of renowned documentary photographer Alain le Garsmeur, who is best known for his work for the Sunday Times and Observer Magazine in the 70 & 80s and his coverage of everyday life in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Based in Northern Ireland, Le Garsmeur is one of the most significant photographers to have operated here over the past decades. This long-overdue survey exhibition at Belfast Exposed maps Le Garsmeur’s career, with particular focus on his photographic work recording social upheaval and political unrest around the world. A prolific editorial and documentary photographer, Le Garsmeur started out as an assistant to such great photographers as Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Donald Silverstein, working in both Paris and London. Later, his work for The Observer Magazine, and other publications such The Independent, Newsweek and The Sunday Times garnered him widespread acclaim. Alain le Garsmeur’s documentation of events in Northern Ireland during The Troubles is particularly significant, with his vast archive of images from this time cataloguing both the horrors and the humanity of everyday life here. Belfast Exposed will host an Artist Talk with Le Garsmeur on Thursday 29th June at 18:00. Hear Le Garsmeur talk the audience through his career, some of his most iconic images and his approach to photojournalism.

Lorraine Turci

• Dates: Until 30 June
• Location: Donegall Quay
• Times: All Day | Mon – Sun

Isolated for millions of years, Antarctica, a vast, remote and impenetrable frozen continent, is one of the planet's last sanctuaries. This territory that was once known only to explorers and scientists has now become a commodity: a destination of choice for wealthy tourists with a thirst for novelty and a sense of urgency to discover regions threatened with extinction. It is the last frontier that must be reached at all costs before it disappears in its current form. Lorraine Turci’s work explores what is at stake in the relationship between human beings and the planet. The markings that flow over and through her photographs represent the number of tourists that now typically visit Antarctica on an annual basis; physically marking and overwhelming this once untouched landscape. This ever-increasing influx of tourists and large cruise liners is having a hugely detrimental impact on the environment and the number of cruise ships operating in the Antarctic is on the rise, marketing expeditions to “the last true frontiers”, and offering attractions such as the chance to see rare wildlife, spectacular scenery, even melting ice caps. Annual cruise ship passenger numbers worldwide have risen from 11 million a year in 2009 to 28.5 million in 2018. Meanwhile, researchers tell us that the permafrost and glaciers are melting, settlements are having to be evacuated and resettled elsewhere and in some places the coast is eroding at a rate of up to 16 metres a year. Turci approaches this subject from a fresh and surprising angle, using humour, absurdity and the sublime to communicate the high stakes of our current environmental situation. Her photographs convey with delicacy and precision the beauty and tragedy of the world around us, while demonstrating how we have turned the natural world into a commodity.

Colin Delfosse

• Dates: Until 30 June
• Location: Queen’s University Quad
• Times: All Day | Mon - Sun

On Kinshasa’s streets – third biggest city of the continent – artists raise awareness among citizens about the challenges the Congolese capital city is facing. In an increasingly degraded environment, these artists question the profusion of consumption goods and rubbish, and recycle them into costumes. Gathered in a collective, they perform in the street, condemning societal issues: lack of access to healthcare, pollution, deforestation and overconsumption. By mixing urban culture and performances, they initiate a dialogue with the city’s inhabitants.

Vasantha Yogananthan

• Dates: 11 June - 29 June
• Location: Belfast City Hall Lawn
• Times: All Day | Mon - Sun

‘A Myth of Two Souls’ is inspired by the epic tale The Ramayana. Drawing inspiration from the imagery associated with this myth and its pervasiveness in everyday Indian life, Vasantha Yogananthan has retraced the legendary route from Nepal to India to Sri Lanka. First recorded by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki around 300 BC, The Ramayana has been continuously rewritten and reinterpreted, and continues to evolve today. Yogananthan’s series is informed by the notion of a journey in time and space and offers a modern retelling of the tale. ‘A Myth of Two Souls’ mixes daily life with staged pictures combining a wide range of techniques, including colour photography, hand-painted photography and collages. In the theatrical portraits, inhabitants of the landscapes mentioned in the epic stage scenes from the tale that have left a mark on their imagination. Shot in black and white using a 4×5 large-format camera, some of these portraits have subsequently been coloured by Indian artist Jaykumar Shankar using the ancient technique of hand- painting. Shankar was given a carte blanche and chose colours according to his own sensitivity and imagination – his vision overlaying on Yogananthan’s. Hand-painting was traditionally reserved for household portraits of wealthy patrons and has been subverted in Yogananthan’s photographs. He has applied this ancient art to depict the whole of society by using passersby as actors, from all stratas of society and ‘castes’, and by photographing outside of the studio he has expanded it into new territories – from modern metropolises to remote countryside.

Jordi Ruiz Cirera

• Dates: Until 30 June
• Location: Botanic Gardens
• Times: 7:30am - 8:30pm | Mon - Sun

‘When I first moved to Mexico in 2017 I started working around subjects of migration and human displacement for a number of media outlets and NGOs. The stories I would cover were often focusing on the plight of migrants and refugees to reach the US. With a background in photojournalism, I would often strive to find a defining moment in their journeys; moments that would convey the dangers, the movement and the impermanence of their situations. On migrant shelters across the country I would find groups of individuals from all over the world. Many from Central and South America, but also from distant countries including Haití, Cameroon and Nepal. All waiting for the next step on their journeys. While I met them in a specific time on their extremely long and hazardous journeys, most of them spent their days waiting. For their visas to be approved. For the good weather that would allow them to cross the desert. For the expiration of the sentences that deported them. For the messages of their loved ones. ‘La Espera’ documents the realities of migrants, refugees and deportees across Mexico, highlighting the temporality of their situations. Focusing my camera towards moments of stopped time I wanted to showcase the feelings of distance, isolation and emptiness I often saw.’

Group Show

• Dates: Until 30 June
• Location: Botanic Gardens
• Times: 7:30am - 8:30pm | Mon - Sun

This group exhibition features four projects which explore the journey from childhood to adulthood. A formative time of development, learning and growth, our experiences and relationships in childhood and adolescence undeniably play a role in the adults we become. The four projects featured within this exhibition look at childhood from very different angles, exploring how gender, expectation, cultural backgrounds, parental relationships and friendships all come to mould us on our passage from childhood to adulthood. Commonly, they capture the magical but fleeting nature of this time of our lives. This exhibition features:

‘Cousins’ by Kristen Joy Emack (part of the group show A RIGHT OF PASSAGE)

‘I’ve been photographing my daughter and nieces for a decade. There’s something sacred about the lives of girls, and their innocent, confident relationships to themselves, their world and one another is gravitational. Between them is an intimate and spiritual knowledge, both ordinary and extraordinary, and I aim to capture the brilliance of their communion. I hope when they look back on this work, they’ll see their beauty, and their devotion to each other, and find themselves here, in this work we made together, reflected with love. The girls have grown up within the frame. Over time their relationship to being photographed has shifted. They became collaborators and have helped with editing, location choice, and offer feedback about where the work should travel. As they matured, and became more confident talking about race, we've been able to discuss the impact of contributing images into the photo world that bear witness to humanity and illuminates the necessity of representation that is neither stereotypical or trendy. There are notable bodies of work about girlhood, but Cousins is unique. It chronicles the lives of girls of colour, which is a perspective that still remains under-embraced. Additionally, each frame is wholly female. Teenage angst, or the distraction of dating does not enter the frame. Instead it’s their connection that stays in focus, their adolescent changes are organic, subtle and unprovocative. Lastly, the girls are invested. They all agree that they want the project to continue – they want to have a visual presence.’ Kristen Joy Emack.

‘Drummies’ by Alice Mann (part of the group show A RIGHT OF PASSAGE)

This project depicts the unique and aspirational subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, affectionately known as ‘Drummies’. The sport has a long history in South Africa, and became popular across the country in the early 80s, but participation in the sport has since dropped dramatically. In contemporary culture there is a strong sense of nostalgia linked to drum majorettes; it is viewed as the pursuit of a bygone era. However, in many marginalised communities across the country, it is still taken seriously and is considered a highly competitive sport. For the girls and young women involved, being a drummie is a privilege and an achievement, indicative of success on and off the field. The notoriously demanding practice schedules are representative of the girls’ commitment, and their ability to work hard. While there have been various debates around the archaic sense of discipline and idealised notions of femininity associated with the sport, being part of a team offers girls a sense of belonging and emboldens their self-worth. The significance of pride and confidence is stressed to the girls, which is vital in communities where opportunities for young women are often severely limited. Being ‘drummies’ allows these girls to excel, and their distinctive uniforms serve as a visual marker of success and emancipation from their surroundings. This project is part of Mann’s ongoing work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society. Her aim is for these images to function as a testament to the commitment and determination of these young female athletes, in a world where so many sporting opportunities are still focused on men.

‘Boys Will Always Be Boys’ by Carlos Idun-Tawiah (part of the group show A RIGHT OF PASSAGE)

‘I was that kid who always hanged with the boys at every chance. As years passed I got less invested in friendships, lost touch with so many activities and friends that meant the world to me and eventually got introverted. I realised how this is a challenge a lot of people I speak to face and this is why I created this photo story. This ongoing photo series is a requiem of my childhood friendships and that of many people who grew up in very communal environments. This is my own way of highlighting the joy of friendships and community, especially among boys, and how quickly yet deeply we get connected to each other through leisure, our aspirations and even over our competitiveness. I also sought to express how the mundane things could mean so much to us; from how a 9-inch ball could bring hundreds of us together for a good 90 minutes on a dusty pitch, or how flying kites and chasing sunsets along the shores of the ocean felt like therapy for us. It always baffled me how we could go months as friends without knowing our real names and could still act like life-long brothers. This series is meant to stir up that conversation and also underscore the thought of how simple life could really be if we could just see each other as family before everything else. This photo story will probably keep going on as long as I live; also focusing on the nuances of how time and age changes the dynamic of friendships and leisure.’

‘New Ghosts’ by Aki & Astrid Sinikoski (part of the group show A RIGHT OF PASSAGE)

Aki and Astrid Sinikoski’s photo series ‘New Ghosts’ portrays the relationship between father and daughter and their attempts to understand life, change, and the passage of time. The project raises questions about identity, adulthood, childhood, life, and death — what kind of role models, ideals, and future scenarios do we create for each other?

As kids, our fears are often easy to name. We are afraid of monsters, ghosts, or, for example, a tree’s shadow reaching towards us behind the window. As we get older, our fears often get more abstract. The new amorphous anxieties create new unnamed phantoms, a sort of “new ghost” we can’t name yet. By photographing their ghost studies, father and daughter have recognized that fears are often the mirror images of dreams. After familiarising oneself with a ghost, one can tame the previously faceless creature and turn it into a gateway to one’s dreams.

Father and daughter have planned and made the photo series together as an artist duo since 2011. It will be published as a whole in 2058 when Aki turns 80 and Astrid 50.

The exhibition of ‘New Ghosts’ in Belfast Photo Festival is supported by Frame.

National Portrait Gallery Collection

• Dates: Until 30 September
• Location: Ulster Museum, Belfast
• Times: 10:00am - 5:00pm | Tues - Sun

Fashion photography emerged as a commercial profession in the early twentieth century, with the primary purpose of showcasing and promoting clothing designs. However, over the last one hundred years it has grown into an art form of its own, with many of the most imaginative and creative photographers of their time drawn to the challenge of capturing the essence and beauty of fashion in their work. This exhibition brings together some of the most famous fashion photographers and models (sitters) to showcase the art of fashion photography. Through themes including Designers, Model, Maker and Muse, and Art and Fashion, the exhibition examines the role fashion photography has played in defining style, imagery and contemporary culture. The exhibition also focuses on the work of probably the most celebrated fashion photographer of the 20th Century, Cecil Beaton. This exhibition has been created in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery as part of their transformational Inspiring People project that includes an extensive programme of nationwide activities, funded by The National Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund.

Group Exhibition

• Dates: Until 29 October
• Location: The Stable Yard Gallery, Hillsborough Castle
• Times: 11am - 4pm | Wed - Sun

Discover Hillsborough Castle’s first ever exhibition, a unique collection of Royal photography running for six months only. This must-see exhibition documents the British Royal Family's ever-evolving journey with the camera over the last 200 years. Never before seen in Northern Ireland, Life Through a Royal Lens brings together over 60 of the most iconic images ever taken of the Royal Family, dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria. See images from notable photographers like Rankin, Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibowitz, and learn about the history and stories behind each image. View some of the personal and lesser-known family portraits for an intimate window into the people behind the public figureheads. This exhibition explores how photography has been used to create an image of duty and stability throughout the centuries, and how advances in technology and media have allowed the Royal Family to connect at a more personal level with a wider global audience. The choice of photographer, photo composition, clothing, and environment throughout the photo series also provides insightful cultural commentary on the social climate at the time each photo was taken.

Featured Artists: Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibovitz, David Bailey, Rankin, Anwar Hussein, Samir Hussein, Peter Macdiarmid, Chris Jackson, Josh Ollins, Leigh Keily, Matthew Brookes, Bob Thomas, Jane Barlow, William Bambridge, W & D Downey, Mary Steen, Lisa Sheriden, Marcus Adams, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield, Matt Porteous, William Constable, William Edward Kilburn, John Jabez Edwin Mayall, Caldesi & Montecchi, Lafayette, Queen Alexandra, The Duke of York (later George VI), Michael Middleton, HRH The Princess of Wales, Dorothy Wilding, Nadav Kander, Matt Holyoak.

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