Belfast Photo Festival provides suitable for farming ground for debate in a new programme titled ‘The Verge’

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With new commissions and new urgencies, Belfast Photograph Festival is back with a bang for its newest edition, themed ‘The Verge’

Belfast Photo Celebration has entrusted Alexandra Lethbridge , the winner of last year’s Spotlight Prize, to create a new body of work for this year’s event. The immersive exhibition, upon view at the Golden Twine Gallery, is titled An Object of Vision and pulls the viewer into a discussion around the absence and existence of women within historical narratives, particularly within art background and material culture.  

Lethbridge’s distinctive and intuitive style of collage, which includes found archival material, can be presented as a combination of large fabric hangings and thick wall-based work. Removing parts of photographs of classical breasts, antique sculptures and idealised female forms, the designer fills the negative area with excerpts of text messages, detailing accounts of elegance against women and studies on trans experience and the menopause.  

The work deals with the particular issue of gender, pinpointing the unjust exclusion of women and the objectification of the women form in the art history canon. In her skillfully crafted collages, and sourcing of archival material, she reasserts power structures and challenges our reading associated with imagery, inviting the viewer to re-imagine an alternative narrative, tapping into a much more psychological realm.  

Also on see at the Golden Thread Photo gallery is ‘A Bigger Picture’, an important exhibition organized by Northern Irish Art Network and the Belfast Photo Festival that invites visitors to look at Northern Ireland through the underrepresented gaze of feminist and queer artists from alumni of the Belfast School of Art

Alexandra Lethbridge

Over at Belfast Uncovered, Thomas Albdorf presents an exhibition that playfully enquires into the nature of photography and probes at the relationship to the idea of rendering in the contemporary world.  

The artist uses acquainted objects to create a series of taking place sculptural assemblages. At first glance, the forms propose an enigmatic observation of the everyday. Stacks of cardboard boxes on the street corner and arrangements of watermelons on a table appear to defy gravity; a sheet of translucent materials hung outdoors shimmers within the sunlight. The pristinely created images imply a high amount of intervention at the hand of the artist but we cannot be sure where the manipulation begins and ends. On the opposition wall of the gallery, the same images are repeated but this time we see the specific signs of technical interference. In a single image, a glitch on a screen dances across the surface of the photograph, disintegrating the topic. In another we look at a staged scene but from a fractionally different position which lifts the curtain on how the work was created.   Albdorf activates and disrupts the still life conceit in a visually spectacular method that reveals the countless mechanisms of representation. The result is one of the uncanny and the exhibit invites us to enjoy the fantasy and sheer potential of the photographic aircraft.  

Upstairs at Belfast Exposed the recent graduates from University of Ulster’s prestigious Photography MFA program present the excellent group exhibition, ‘A Trace of Ownership’.  

©Thomas Albdorf

The Ulster Museum homes one of the most powerful exhibitions on this year’s festival, Against the Image: Photography. Media. Manipulation .    

The exhibition is grounded in a local context with all the inclusion of several earlier works by Northern Irish musician Victor Sloan . Sloan’s works were pivotal in terms of artistic responses to the Troubles and had been made by painting, marking and scoring directly onto photographic negatives of images from the conflict. The parades, riots, police checks and roadblocks that Sloan prolifically noted had become part of the material of his life. He or she often captured moments associated with waiting around, peripheral action, or even his subjects at relaxation; contrasting with the types of images sought after by the influx of visiting photojournalists in the 70s and 80s. The raw energy and anxiety implied through the surface of his images reminds us from the physical toll the conflict had on those that resided through and witnessed it.

There is a charge in seeing Sloan’s work alongside the job of Tabitha Soren . There are aesthetic similarities in terms of the marks that will cover the surface of Soren’s photographs, creating an almost painterly abstraction of the online push images that form the topics of her work. However , the marks that are increased in her images are the magnified fingerprints, smudges plus smears on the surface of the girl hand held device from the constant scrolling and swiping associated with images. Seen together, the artists’ work illuminates the speedy changes in photographic technology of the past 30 years and also our changing relationship to consuming images of discord.

©Tabitha Soren

This particular exhibition also includes Alexandra Rose Howland ’s large installation Leave and Let us Move , the five year project recording the Mosul Road that will connects Erbil and ing Nuri Mosque in Iraq. The installation includes the particular artist’s photographs as well as these gleaned from strangers creating a nuanced web of connected with each other relationships, experiences and emotions that go beyond mainstream coverage of the region.  

The ultimate work in the exhibition is usually ‘Now You See Me Moria’, an ongoing project of a series of posters that have been made in collaboration with refugees documenting their own life in the Moria asylum camp in Lesbos, and designers. The project strategies against the inhumane conditions of the camp and provides vital communication around a site that limits photographic access.  

In addition to these central exhibitions, the particular Festival includes a variety of large outdoor group exhibitions, this kind of as  Decade of Change in collaboration with the British Journal of Photography and 1854 Media at Town Quays Gallery and a rich variety of works throughout the Botanic Gardens and the Queens University Campus.  

©Tommaso Rada

©Margaret Courtney-Clarke

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