Belfast Photo Festival’s dynamic program focuses on underrepresented voices plus subverting photographic archives

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Over Image: © Zora M Murff

Ripping up the rule guide, the festival tackles one of the most pressing issues of our amount of time in a city that maintains a complex relationship to pictures.

Since its inaugural occasion in 2011, Belfast Photo Festival has steadily grown in both reputation and scale. For that month of June, the photography festival returns having a programme of local and international artists. It gifts a series of innovative and urgent exhibitions curated around the concept, The Edge. Eclectic and ambitious, it spotlights photography that pushes against dominant social, traditional, and visual frameworks to propose perspectives on the world.

This year’s programme probes at Belfast’s complicated relationship with digital photography. A group exhibition titled A Bigger Picture at Golden Twine Gallery invites us to see Northern Ireland through the underrepresented gaze of feminist plus queer artists. The exhibition, developed in partnership with the Belfast School of Art, presents a perspective on the city that has been all but omitted in the dominant narratives around Northern Irish photography. This important event offers an alternative perspective plus makes an inquiry in to the construction of gender plus identity in Northern Ireland.

The city’s complex photo taking history continues in a main new commission, Alternative Ulster by Japanese artist Kensuke Koike. Koike’s interventions were drawn from the photographic archives of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and the National Museums of Northern Ireland. They are as inventive and compelling as they are radically subversive in their re-imagining of The Troubles, a conflict which was often played out with the lens of a camera. The general public nature of this work, presented within the Queen’s University campus, invites a dialogue throughout the veracity and authority of the photographic image.

©Shannon Ritchie

©Kensuke Koike

In addition to responding to local contexts, the celebration programme equally connects to global contemporary concerns. Against the Image: Photography. Media. Adjustment. , on show at the Ulster Art gallery, features artists Victor Sloan, Tabitha Soren, Alexandra Rose Howland and collective Now You See Me Moria. The task responds to a wide range of global events and conflicts through around the world. The artists referrals photography’s subjective and extremely mediated nature by subverting the medium using an amount of techniques to intervene on the surface from the photograph. By doing so, they cause a challenge to a representational reading of the medium and encourage the viewer to question our passive consumption of pictures.  

This year, in a new partnership with 1854 Media and British Journal of Photography, the festival presents Decade of Switch . On display at the Town Quays Gallery, the exhibit highlights work from all over the world reflecting on climate concerns. Elsewhere, we see recently commissioned work by Alexandra Lethbridge, as well as Guido Mocafico’s celebrated still life digital photography, and Marta Bogdanska’s imaginative project on animal spies. Plus, exhibitions from Nico Krijno, Thomas Albdorf, Rebecca Najdowski and Zora T Murff.

Many of the key issues raised across the programme are brought together through a main events programme which has been co-organised with the British Journal of Photography. Taking place online and personally, the events open up photography’s ever evolving role within our changing world.

Belfast Photo Festival is open between 2 – 30 | Find out more here

©Rafael Heygster

©Tabitha Soren

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