New exhibition invites us to view Northern Ireland through a different lens

Photographers explore Northern Ireland through a feminist and queer gaze

A new exhibition of work by emerging photographic artists at Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery is set to share alternative viewpoints on Northern Ireland, as seen through a different lens.

A Bigger Picture, presented by Belfast Photo Festival and the Northern Irish Art Network, invites visitors to view Northern Ireland through the underrepresented gaze of feminist and queer artists from the Belfast School of Art.

“Northern Irish photography has established itself internationally as having a distinct and recognisable sensibility,” remarks exhibition curator Dr Clare Gallagher, a lecturer in photography at Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art.

“However, it remains widely viewed as a masculine terrain, dominated by male voices,” Dr Gallagher adds.

“The images that define this place have been largely captured through the male gaze. What this exhibition offers is a countertext, an alternative perspective that addresses the omissions in representation, not only in Northern Irish photography, but in the narrative of what it means to be from here.”

Delivered in association with Ulster Presents at Ulster University, the group exhibition presents highly nuanced and challenging perspectives on Northern Ireland. A Bigger Picture is on display at Golden Thread Gallery until 9 July.

Its opening marks the launch of this year’s Belfast Photo Festival programme.

Northern Ireland’s premier visual arts festival is set to return next month (2–30 June) presenting a programme of compelling and immersive exhibitions in galleries and public spaces throughout the city.

Under its theme The Verge, this year’s festival explores untold stories, underrepresented narratives and perspectives on the world that too often go unseen.

Clare Gormley, Head of Programmes & Partnerships at Belfast Photo Festival, says: “Celebrating photography that pushes against dominant social, cultural, historical and visual frameworks, this year’s festival features the work of artists who find themselves – both conceptually and aesthetically – on the verge of new territories. They bring forth new perspectives on the world we live in, the past we inherit and lead us to the verge of something altogether new.

The festival’s director, Michael Weir, adds: “How fitting it is that the first exhibition to open our 2022 programme is by a collective of fifteen emerging artists through whose gaze we are offered a new perspective on Northern Ireland; a body of work that weaves a rich tapestry of love and loss, hope and struggle, bringing into focus people and place through a less seen, but powerful feminist and queer gaze.”

Commenting on this year’s programme, Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, says: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Belfast Photo Festival. Thanks to The National Lottery players, this popular festival returns for 2022 with an impressive programme celebrating the work of local, national and international contemporary photographers. I’m particularly pleased to see the festival include a series of open air exhibitions at Queen’s University, Botanic Gardens and Belfast Harbour Quay, which will undoubtedly capture attention, engage and inspire new audiences as people go about their day. Congratulations to the dedicated team at Belfast Photo Festival and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy what the festival has to offer.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Michael Long adds: “I’m delighted to see Belfast Photo Festival and the Northern Irish Art Network join forces to present this important body of work from feminist and queer artists from the Belfast School of Art. We are so fortunate that Belfast is home to such talented artists, who encourage us to see the world in different ways – and who bring new perspectives to our lives. Belfast is becoming an increasingly diverse city – and that’s something to be celebrated without doubt. With diversity comes a richness of experience and a host of narratives to be explored and understood.

“I’d encourage everyone to take this opportunity to view the world around them through a different lens by visiting A Bigger Picture at Golden Thread Gallery, and during the rest of this year’s Belfast Photo Festival, which Belfast City Council is very proud to support.”

Among this year’s other highlights is Alternative Ulster, a new body of work by renowned Japanese artist Kensuke Koike which draws on the photographic archives of National Museums NI (NMNI) and the Public Records office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) to present an alternative vision of Northern Ireland’s past. Set to be installed in the grounds of Queen’s University Belfast, the artist’s use of techniques including cutting, collaging and layering to rework the original images make surreal the historic depictions of Northern Ireland contained within two of our most historically important archives of photography.

Featuring the works of Victor Sloan, Tabitha Soren and Alexandra Rose Howland, Against the Image at Ulster Museum examines the authority of the photograph in an era of mass media and mass (mis)information. It exposes the tension between the truth of events and how they are presented. The featured artists challenge and expose the highly subjective and mediated nature of photography, distorting and manipulating images to expose narratives that often go unseen.

From Covid and the climate crisis to global conflicts and the mass displacement and migration of people, Capturing the Now in Botanic Gardens is dedicated to the work of photographers who provide an inside look at the most pressing events of our era as we live through an historic global moment of environmental, political and social upheaval.

Renowned for its creative presentations and animation of public spaces with captivating visual art, this year’s festival will once again stimulate curiosity and discussion with a range of open air exhibitions along Botanic Gardens, Queen’s University Quad, Belfast City Quays, Belfast City Hall Lawn, Queen’s Island (adjacent Titanic Belfast) and Stormont Estate.

Belfast Photo Festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Arts & Business, Belfast Harbour and Alexander Boyd Displays.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up to date on social media via FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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