Belfast Photo Festival (post-Photo Festival)

Belfast Photo Festival

Billed as ‘Northern Ireland’s first major photographic event celebrating some of the finest national and international contemporary photography and visual culture’.

In order to curb my disappointment at not to be able to make the festival, which ran from 04 – 14 August, with a fantastic range of talks, screenings, events and workshops (would have loved to do the Simon Norfolk workshop and the Photo Walk) I consoled myself with a 2 day trip to visit many of the exhibitions that are running until 25 August. The visit was a resounding success – at curbing my disappointment – in 2 days I made my way around a dozen exhibitions, dotted across the city in a wide range of venues. The experience of setting out in the morning, my festival map in hand, was a great way to (re)discover the centre of Belfast, alongside viewing some interesting exhibitions. The venues ranged from galleries, museums, theatres, pubs, coffee shops and artist studios, and this aspect of diversity and discovery in the venues I really enjoyed and saved me from the ‘gallery fatigue’, that I’ve experienced during other concentrated art expeditions.

The work on show was equally diverse; in subject matter, style and production, from awe inspiring beauty of large scale prints to small, grainy fragments of history. Without reviewing individual works I can say that I had a brilliant 2 days, the remaining festival exhibitions were well worth the visit and a good reminder to me that Belfast is a fascinating and vibrant city – that has a strong photographic culture and presence, with Belfast Exposed and Source magazine profiling some of the finest national and International photography – all year round.

Visit www.belfastphotofestival.com to see archive information of all exhibitions and events.

There is not much of the actual work represented on the web-site but some links to photographers included in the Open Submission Group show can be found under that exhibition category. 3 that I particularly enjoyed were:

                       

And, if you are not already familiar, check out these sites:

Full list of exhibitions seen:
Ulster Hall: Common Place; Eoin O’Conall.
University of Ulster: Full Spectrum Dominance; Simon Norfolk
Golden Thread: Under A Grey Sky; Simon Burch
Clements: It Is Still; Clare Samuel.
Belfast Exposed : Polonia and Other Fables; Alan Sekula
Ormeau Baths: Detonating Rough Ground; Paul Seawright/ Sophie Ristelhueber.
Creative Flux: Animal; Elliot Ross
Queen Street Studios; Document; Roseanne Lynch
Red Barn: group exhibition of archive photographs of Belfast.
Waterfront: Open Submission and Europe; Christof Pluemacher.
John Hewitt: Tales From The Promised Land; Kenneth O’Halloran

Belfast itself is an amazing city to visit, full of contrast and powerful imagery on every street. During my visit I also did the tourist -Open Top Bus Tour – which was surprisingly good, giving a broad introduction to aspects of the cities history and key landmarks, however a must for all photographers is also one of the Cities walking tours, which will walk you to the Falls Road and Shankill Road, locations of many of the famous Belfast murals.

Also, as part of Street Levels Resilience Programme I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Belfast Exposed Director Pauline Hadaway, hearing in depth about their programmes, ideology and strategies for survival and growth in the challenging years ahead, with funding cuts across the cultural sector looming. With their strong commitment to community engagement, education services and diverse artistic practises within contemporary photography, Belfast Exposed share many common concerns and passions with Street Level. Pauline gave a talk at Street Level in July about the work of the gallery, which was one outcome of our ongoing conversations, and it is expected that stronger links and partnership projects will be developed.

Iseult Timmermans, 22 August 2011.

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