Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Dunmurry Today Project

Tom Finlay The Belfast Exposed Community Engagement Development Officer talks about the Dunmurry Today Project. Tom reflects on the challenges of the project and how the learning from this has shaped the future direction of Belfast Exposed ‘POD’ concept.


Building a picture of Dunmurry past and present


Belfast Exposed partnered Artist Jill Quigley with the Dunmurry Senior Citizens group. Jill is a participant in the 2014 volunteer community facilitation program. Jills’ first brief was to develop a project in Dummurry with the Senior citizens group examining the theme ‘Dunmurry Today’. Over the month of August Jill met with the group once a week to look at the theme and to develop a project opening up the participants view of Dunmurry today. Jill worked with the group recording their stories and memories of an otherwise forgotten side to Dunmurry. Using old photographs and through group discussions Jill encouraged the group to think about and discuss their experiences of Dunmurry. Jill took the group on a photo walk around Dunmurry, collectively the group evolved a view of Dunmurry past and present.

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Wish You Were Here begins in East Belfast

Wish You Were Here begins in East Belfast

PRIME collective have begun the project ‘Wish You Were Here’ in East Belfast. We will hold our third session this coming Wednesday (when we take the group out on an evening photography adventure together with Mervyn). This is a blog post about out first session which includes some general notes:

On Wednesday the 3rd of October the members of PRIME met with the Wish You Were Here workshop participants for the first time during an introduction session, held upstairs at the Templemore Avenue Swimming Pool between 6pm and 8pm.

After a meet and greet and some tea (and cake/biscuits), we all gathered around, introduced ourselves and why we wanted to participate in the project. Reasons were varied: to learn new photography skills, to learn about the area, out of curiosity, to meet some new people and to exchange ideas.

We (PRIME) explained that we will be working on the project as part of the group, and that we were keen to learn. An emphasis was put on the experimental nature of the project, that seeks not just to take photographs but to examine how to represent a subject to the outside world; what makes an interesting image; and what is worth exploring, debating and ultimately representing in East Belfast.

We had also brought books and prepared a slideshow of images sourced from Belfast Exposed’s recent exhibition and publications, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography that demonstrated different ways in which a whole range of photographers such as Patrick McCoy, Hannah Starkey, Kai Olaf Hesse, John Duncan, Paul Quinn, Ursula Burke and Daniel Jewesbury have chosen to represent the city.


Photographs about the city do not always have to represent a particular landscape or familiar landmark. They can be portraits of people who are familiar, or maybe not, or of a place of personal or historical significance. They can seem ordinary, even mundane, and may be staged or taken in a serendipitous moment of chance.

We proceeded with an exercise: we drew a map of the world from memory. This seemingly simple exercise is harder than expected, and began a discussion about place. About countries and cities visited, and therefore familiar, or faraway places known only by name. The representations differed wildly, though we were all drawing the same thing.

drawing (smaller)

We then drew a map of East Belfast, based on what we were familiar with in the area. The variety of different ways of negotiating the city became apparent from our maps. One was of playgrounds and parks – places that were suitable for young children.


Another had an imaginary street with the drawer’s favourite buildings and shops. Important places and spaces were included, and everyone’s perspective was slightly different. This exercise triggered a discussion between the group, focusing on the area. On the many bakeries and what you can buy where. Of the vacant shops with stickers on the windows portraying fantasy businesses.


One participant spoke of the network of alleys through which you can walk to town without hardly ever walking along a major road. It was fascinating to exchange information with people of various ages and backgrounds from the area, and we asked the group to start thinking about some of the places they may wish to photograph over the period of the workshops.

Murals Poem

Perhaps one of the greatest experiences in my career with Belfast Exposed was my Residency in Anacostia Washington DC.

I first visited Anacostia in Spring 2007 and have been back 3 times, one of the joys and lasting friendships I gained was meeting Fred Joiner a local poet from Anacostia, who in has own way through poetry manages to convey the thought, hope dreams and anxieties of people.

Fred together with a selection of other poets from Anacostia provided the rich poetry text which accompanied my photography exhibition, one of these poems written by Fred I thinks sums up what we at Belfast Exposed strive to achieve through all our Photography right across the board.



Walls speak blood truth

the grayscale song of a camera’s

eye says what our words cannot


Fred JoinerImageImage 


Belfast Exposed has a valuable Photography Archive of 30 years holding many images representing many different aspects of life, here are just a few, but please check our Archive out on your next visit.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage


The WIMPS project is a project undertaken by young people asking Where Is My Public Servant, we recently have undertaken a photography project with WIMPS where the young people used the Theme of Democracy to raise awareness of how they feel.I have attached 2 images made by the young people showing their personal views.ImageImage

Valuable Reflections – Q and A Session: Wednesday 21 August

  • Dunmurray Community Centre Leader and Senior Youth leader (Billy Thompson & Johnny)
  • Pauline Hadaway
  • Mervyn Smyth
  • Menika van der Poorten
  • Ruth Moore

 Q1. Why is your community interested in working with Belfast Exposed?

  • Delivers a different type of activity. Learning new skills that young people connect with – and the focus on self expression is key
  • We have young people who have moved on still talk about the media they undertook with BX
  • It can be difficult to get funders to pay for this kind of work but funders are beginning to realise there is something in this. 
  • Young people being able to project different alternative views of themselves, be involved in positive images of young people is important. Makes a difference to young people’s sense of self and place within the community. 

Billy shared ideas about future direction:

  • Community has invested in equipment.
  • Hoping that we will get teaching and skills in own group so we can use it.
  • Want to develop a media hub in Dunmurray. More practical courses for leaders and senior youth leaders who could then take camera work sessions.
  • Could have a locally run camera club?

RM: Could this create community pathways connecting back into the programmes and courses then offered by BX in Belfast?

 Q2. How much to you feel you own the project, design planning and delivery?

We feel it is helping us build towards something…we feel it fits with our plans

Recommendation from BX: why not record the process you are undertaking and the content of courses to create a visual evaluation? Then present this to your funders?

RM: Could a community project be supported as  a mini  community pilot  in itself i.e. as a photography project with a social economy element and camera club/school which is stand alone and links into BX? Would it be of interest to BX to explore how this might work in partnership with a community, as a stand along sustainable project? Is there any benefit to BX in having mini community hubs to work in? How can this be teased out?

Q3: What about participants sense of ownership?

We should talk to them directly.

 Q4. What motivates you/your group/young people  to take part?

1. Creativity

2. Storytelling

3. Skills

4. Other

  • It’s a mixture of all of them. They get skills and they get chance to make pictures and also exp. of telling a visual story. 

RM: Are their stories being told? What are these?

Young people want to make work that reaches out ..

RM: important to explore who are the audiences for this work are at a grass roots level?

  • Opportunity for inter generational  work through images. 
  • We want this to continue, to grow. We don’t want it to finish.

 Q5. What are the barriers?

  • What we need is the training in photography skills, using the equipment. Getting the best of the software. Lightroom etc. If we had people trained in local area….we could run the media hub so other community groups could come in.  
  • We need to do business planning for the self sufficiency of the media hub and in house training. Could create small enterprises e.g. Family Portraiture Service
  • Mervyn has been a big help on applications 

 PH: BX could deliver the photographic side of this and Community Development organisations could provide skills to develop the social enterprise aspects. This needs strategic planning, business and action planning.

Valuable Reflections Q and A session : Tuesday 20 August

imageTues 20th August. BX. 

4 images from each of the following group’s work have been selected and form a part of the exhibition in the Exchange Space and studio , they include work made by people based at:

  • Newtownbreda High School
  • Impact Training
  • Impact training
  • Clan Mill / Sydenham Court
  • Seniors group using photography in Alzheimer’s Care
  • TADA,  Derriaghy village
  • Shankill All Stars
  • Victim and Survivor Trust
  • Ards Arena
  • Cross links
  • Intermix
  • RNIB
  • Council for the Homeless
  • Streets Ahead, Lisburn
  • Derriaghy village C A
  • Antrim Borough Council
  • MAC made festival
  • BELB Inclusion  and Diversity Unit
  • Hazelwood Integrated School
  • St Patricks Dungiven
  • Annandale and Haywood Residents Association

The images show work which has been made over different time periods in 2012 and/or 2013.  The work is representative of the projects undertaken which in themselves all varied from  month long interventions by BX to taking place over six months (or longer?)

Little contextual information is available setting out the processes involved e.g. camera skills based workshops, ways of seeing, issues based workshop etc scoping  workshops identifying issues or whether social justice issues were already identified by young people before commencement of projects.

Group Session 1.

Attended by representatives of :

– Inclusion and Diversity Unit

– Impact Training

– Annadale Residents association


Pauline Hadaway introduced the review giving a short history of BX’s 1983 beginnings which was to encourage people to present an alternative  real authentic view if the city, different to what was being ‘officially’ reported. Explaining that something photography lends itself to is the telling of  diverse stories and experiences.

Pauline posed questions e.g.

How would you like to be involved in creating the next exhibition in this space? And encouraged participants to consider the work they are making over the next few months and how it could enter into the BX Exchange gallery space and how BX together with participants could encourage families and members of the public to come and see.

Jim Weir. Inclusion and Diversity Unit, made a few introductory remarks about recent engagement with Roma youth. He spoke about language challenges and how sport and p’graphy projects can overcome those barriers. He applauded the  efforts of the young people and thanked Mervyn Smyth for his helpfulness in supporting the Roma community in South Belfast.

Pauline explained the purpose of the organisational review in regard to what it does, what it delivers and how it delivers through consultation with communities; explaining the intention of BX to develop new projects for piloting between Jan and July next year. Pauline outlined that a series of pilot project would be resourced, evaluated and post evaluation embedded into the programming going forward.

Key areas being explored include:

– the way we engage communities

–  who those communities are

To assist the review 6 questions have ben formulated which they wish to consider (5 mins per question)

Q1. Why is your community interested invoking Belfast Exposed?

  • Because it is skills photography. Trying to get young people to engage is difficult but using the medium of photography you can get young people to concentrate. It is also a way to explore issues.
  • We feel it works for us. And young people who like working with cameras and so we want to build on that. Keep going and build on the skills level.
  • They are learning know about the cameras functions now. Moving beyond auto settings.
  • Amazing to see what young people are seeing.
  • We are working with ethnic minority groups and working through visual images can help break down the barriers.
  • Photography is a young people’s language. Most young people have cameras so its a medium they are used to.
  • Photography can be a great medium when working across abilities e.g. where young person has learning difficulties. Programmes delivered well create a sense of social inclusion across  different capacities
  • It can be difficult when working with young people to find ways to address hard issues e.g. hate crime.  But coming at these issues through photography can help
  • It also seems to develop a respect between young people i.e. a respect of each others way of seeing.

Q2: how much to you feel you own the project, design planning and delivery?

  •  Feel that we did have an input and Mervyn did consider all that is needed by the group.
  •  Tensions did arise as sometimes funders were pulling one way and the participants were pulling another way.
  • When it comes to the project – important for me as the leader of the local organisation to oversee it but I also step back and let young people get on with it – it is more important that the young people can take ownership of it.
  • Never thought about this until you asked it. We rely on expertise of BX. If the whole project was left up to the young people I am not sure how it would end up.
  •  Photography is a vehicle for young people, to express what they want to express.

Q: What do you think your people would say in answer to the same question? (answer thinking from the perspective of young people). 

  • It would be good to ask them!
  • Some times our work doesn’t go to plan because young people don’t turn up. You don’t feel that pressure working with BX. Our young people are pushed about in different directions e.g. young people have been put on car wash…  so this flexibility  by BX is important.
  • As the organiser/leader, I do like to contribute but I do think and hope they see the projects as their projects.
  • Projects we have undertaken have been funding specified. It would be interesting to seeing what the young people would freely choose to work on if they could choose.
  • In the Inclusion & Diversity unit we had funding so we were able to enable the young people’s to initiate the ideas and shape the project.
  • The project we are doing is looking at hate crime.. You can see the young people coming up with the ideas. Young people are interactive in the workshops.

Q: What motivates you/your group/young people  to take part?

  • Creativity
  • Visual Storytelling
  • Skills learning
  • Participative activity
  • Other?
  • We were inspired by Roger Greenaway  and what we look for is inspiring activities. which spark young people’s imagination, and may also lead onto something elseIt is  all of these. It has to be enjoyable for young peopleIt’s important that the projects address self esteem. I.e. confidence building.
  • It’s a tool for engagement
  • The images are an important documentation
  • The skills aspect is important. A lot of our training is in house all week and this breaks up the type of training and it builds different skills even if that’s about switching on a camera, holding a camera. It’s probably about bringing skills and creativity together.

RM reflected back: that the discussion is suggesting that engagement with young people  through the process of image, is making it is possible to present and in a way legitimate young people’s perspectives – in communities where young people are not always understood or positively perceived. It was agreed that this was the case. So there is a wider social cohesion /social justice issues underlying why engage young people and in the outcome of the work e.g. youth inclusion in wider community.

Q: Would you as leaders be interested in undertaking your own community photography project work. 

If invited would the people who design and manage photography projects like to take part in one to try it out themselves? Unanimous YES!

Q5: What are the barriers to engaging with BX on projects? 

  • Time constraints and equipment limitations.

PH: So if you had cameras of your own and someone on the team who was trained up, you could be delivering in house programmes all year round?

  • Yes, however, there is benefits too for new project workers coming out.
  • Why aren’t we (the different community groups) doing something together and sharing skills and resources?

PH: Could a variety of groups work together on a shared project? What are the practical  issues? Could young people be coming down to take up volunteering opportunities here, use the library, see the exhibition, join the residencies team, and when we have our new web site launched these opportunities  will be clearer. There are lots of things they can do.

Neutral venues is still important. Because often this is about parents who have fears and so it removes our need to address this.

  • Transport is a issue for getting to and from city centre venues
  • I think first you have to take young people through their own process first and then be able to build on it by linking up and meeting other young people and working on later shared projects, or coming into venues e.g. BX

 Q: How could we work together so you could be working to do this exhibition next year ? (Where we facilitate the edit with the groups? Give participants a very active role in selection images, where and how things get hung in exhibitions? )

  • Need to learn about making an exhibition
  • Local issues need to be turned into general interest – e.g. issues about fashion can actually be about identity although if you say that to a funder it doesn’t succeed!
  • The Issue around safety around camera’s especially now with cameras in built to phones – how do young people protect themselves? This is a massive issue in photography now.
  • Could BX build in something into every projects which looks at the responsibilities of using a camera and taking photos of other people? What about the unseen impacts of posting potentially damaging images.
  • For five minutes it is funny but after that its not funny – once you put up a photo in FB its there forever.
  • So important to look at keeping yourself safe. Important to look at issues of sensitivity and posting on social network sites.
  • This focus needs to be included – it does go with the creativity process as its about taking a responsibility of what you are showing, it’s about you being the creator of the image. It’s not about censorship but about taking responsibility and looking at the impact of decisions.
  • Would it be an idea to build in case studies and around safety every programme delivered?

Notes from the discussion on art, communities and collaboration

Friday 23 August at BX

Pauline, Ciara, Mervyn for BX and Patrick Fox (Create), Fergus Jordan (BX Engagement Team), Anthony Luvera and Eugenie Dolberg (artists), Menkia van der Poorten and Ruth Moore (arts development, researchers and note takers)

The questions

  • Why do groups want to get involved in photography and with BX?
  • Why do artists want to work with communities?
  • Is there a difference between what managers, leaders and rank and file participants want from projects?
  • What are the barriers to people getting involved in projects?
  • Do people feel ownership or a sense of ownership?
  • Who actually owns the projects?

Q.1 Why would groups want to get involved/ why would artists want to get involved?

Patrick Fox (PF)

In asking what does the community want, we need to consider what we mean by community?

Why photography? A photography project can look at issues and themes through the lens of contemporary arts.  Communities can engage without the pressure of the outcome. A period of research can be an outcome.

Eugenie Dolberg (ED)

The Pilot Project under development.

What is it? Where is it going to lead? I think people need to have a sense of it leading somewhere.

Pauline Hadaway (PH)

It is a tentative stage. The Pilot Project could entirely change the way we work.

On the other hand, it may not lead anywhere in terms of an artistic output or production.

Anthony Luvera (AL)

I see it being about forming a relationship, an artist being immersed in an organization for a period of time. The emphasis is on uncertainty.

We don’t know where it will lead.

Mervyn Smyth (MS)

Maybe it’s about the process

We are looking at and documenting the process

The process has to be free and fluid

Building trust is part of the process.

Communities often feel that they are excluded

People feel they cannot trust or be trusted


Why do they get involved?


They want to learn things.

And it may be about using art as a diversionary tactic

Ruth Moore (RM)

What’s missing is the pathways or progression.

There are communities with stories to tell

They want their voices heard and stories told

It’s not about taking that to a definite end point, but starting on a pathway. Not having an end, but having a process.

Menika van der Poortern (MP)

If you are running a six month pilot project, why would I want to get involved without a definite outcome? What would be the motivation?


As an artist, I don’t know what the end result would be, that’s what is interesting. As an artist, I am a tool kit for the group.


The motivation could be all the things Mervyn has said, plus challenging the funders. Showing how projects should be and could be run.

Ciara Hickey (CH)

It strikes me that the difference between the long term collaborative project and the shorter community photography experience is similar to the difference between a touring show and a commissioned work in the gallery. Both are valuable, but the work that is commissioned and made in and for the space, gives everyone a sense of ownership


The people I work with, feel ownership because they are inspired. They need to tell their story. That need has to be urgent and critical

Q.2     Do people feel ownership or a sense of ownership?


The question of ownership can be a red herring. Co production gives a moral entitlement of ownership: it is our work. I see myself as the author of the project, but the audience need to know that the participants have been involved in making the work.


Work that shows in the gallery, will open up into the gallery. The gallery becomes a place for sharing work. An artist can already see that, while the ‘non artist’ comes to an understanding of to. It’s a collaborative and collective experience


Documentary or fine art, doesn’t matter. What matters is that the project is a collaborative enterprise, a collective enterprise The artists role is to animate the project, supporting people to make work.


There are technical solutions to questions of ownership. We can grant licenses to use images. People can withdraw, change their mind, cancel the license.

Fergus Jordan (FJ)

Are you co authors or collaborative


I am the author of the project, but individuals taking part are the authors of the images.


There are many different ways to collaborate


We are looking at a spectrum of collaborative practices, which BX already covers:

–       Collaboration

–       Artists working as co authors

–       Artists working as activators

–       Dialogical


If you take the artist out of the equation and you say that the project wouldn’t have happened, then it is not collective authorship.


We tend to work as activators,


Questions of the market value of the artwork can arise and complicate things.


The photographs emerge as the result of a particular methodology, which the artist applies


Ownership is blurry. But if you can say that without the artist there would be no work, then the artist must own the work.


Authorship relates to agency, doesn’t it? The question is, who drives the project?

Why do you want to take part and what does taking partmean to you?


Can you give a shared copyright to group members?

We need to find a definition of authorship that we are comfortable with.


At the book launch, which was a couple of years after the project finished, some of the Residency participants had forgotten about taking part, they had moved on in their lives. Others had gone on to take photography more seriously, and one of the participants is now hosting and running skills workshops of his own.

Q.  What are the barriers?


Building trust.


The artist (gives example) was living in a village and people were coming forward because they had got to know her. People have to know you are there and that they can come to you.


Someone gets involved and tells other people how good it is and they tell other people


People don’t want to be ‘just the next story’ for someone else to explore

When you go looking for something you won’t find it.

But the story may come to you.


You build up a level of trust and the stories are shared.


I was working with the queer community in Brighton. A call was put out to people to get involved, and what happened was that people who wanted to get involved responded and got involved. It was that simple/


The selective process for Open Shutters Iraq was haphazard, because some people had no passports and some people couldn’t travel out of Iraq.

I didn’t want to know too much about the people who were getting involved, until the workshops started. The Life Maps is a story telling tool, which overcomes fears and challenges the comfortable narrative of people’s lives.


There has to be a willingness to engage if you are working as part of the group.


Building trust is crucial.


The BX skills based workshops tend to be working with existing groups.

Whereas artists want to work with new groups all the time….. New people.


The communities don’t always want their work to sit next to the work of another community, so the politics get in the way.


You can see that, the way the relationships formed round the table are quite fragile.


Is the re something we could be doing, working with groups in more conceptual areas of photography. With ideas.


The notion that photography is accessible. Can it be as much of a barrier as a help? I think one of the main things that distinguishes the way artists work with photography from the way non artists work, relates to the way they think about photography.  Artists are very critical about photography. They challenge its assumptions. Non artists tend to see photography in a more positive light.


Critical practice and challenging the politics of representation is right at the heart of the way photographers are working today. In Northern Ireland, it sometimes seems that people are used to being misrepresented by photography.  They accept it.


Sounds like we are coming back to different ideas of communities.

Would it be useful to involve communities of interest in these pilots?

Activate some of the more obtuse notions of communities?

Looking at different models.

What about working with groups of people who work in a particular job.

Or the people who get into the black taxis.


Is there a difference between the community leaders, the people taking part? Who is the actual community we want to engage with?

There is a problem of entrenchment in communities

Who are the communities?

There are many different conversations to be had

The artist has to be able to engage in all those conversations

While the organisation acts as a facilitator

There are many different conversations at POLICY LEVEL and at COMMUNITY LEVEL and at PARTICIPANT LEVEL.


The role of the gatekeeper is to control the narrative and to safeguard the community.


Part of the Research and Development of community projects has to be about me, the artist, situating myself in the organization and getting an understanding of the work it does and getting the organization or community to understand what I do as an artist.


The relationship has to be between the artist and the individual taking part, and preferably avoiding the organisations who bring their own rehearsed narratives. I want to crack this open. The funders intrude and the managers intrude…..


Interference by the managers, can undermine the project


The older community leaders don’t trust the younger generation.


I document a community from a critical perspective. As an outsider and insider.

I work in a housing estate in Dunclug, a place where I grew up. It was one of the only non sectarianised housing estate in NI, but it developed a huge drug problem. The estate is marginalised. I lived there until I was 18 and now I have come back to tell the story of the estate. So I am seen as a threat. I want to make a clear record. I am critical.


What about truthfulness? Have you ever walked away from a group because they wouldn’t or couldn’t fully reveal or resolve the work? As an artist you often have to cross a line and open yourself up. You put yourself at risk. Are you comfortable with working with groups on these terms. Putting them on the line?

How far do you place your participants at risk?

Opening themselves up, taking critical flak, being misunderstood.


(Open Shutters Iraq) People chose stories and then went out to make their stories, it is up to us to explain and to get consent. It is all about the making making of the work. That is what drives us.

Some basic ingredients:-

However you get involved you have to be free to consent and to walk away

The artist just needs a chance to meet with people and explain

To explore new methodologies

To document the process but not get hung up on the product


The public presentation of the work is important.

For us it was posters on the Underground.

A participant withdrew, but it was too late.

We couldn’t address the problem.


What are asking people to invest? If it is a cup of tea and a chat, then that’s a lot easier than asking them to participate in a creative project as co producer,


Do you want to get involved? I’m here, what can I do?


Can you try to discover a common interest and explore and discuss something?


People want to be involved and want to make work.


Isn’t it about negotiating a contract where it is clear what people are putting in and what they are getting out of it?


What could the benefits be?


Learn how to use a camera. Think about photography and how it is used in the media and what it reveals


Taking part can be a joy because of by the pointlessness of the process, The non utilitarian purpose of art is the joy.


The funders have expectations, that we deliver an exhibition.


The funder shouldn’t always get the blame.


That’s right. We have a funder right now, ready to support usMS

Let’s not be afraid to fail. To take ourselves out of the comfort zone. Let’s get to people and try something different.


Can we use the pilot project as an experimentation with process, can we record and document the process.


To go somewhere new.


Can we look at particular projects with BX and review how far they go and where they succeed and fail.


How do we reach people, get them involved?


The artist has to make the contact. They make the effort to meet people who are behind the gatekeepers. THE BIG DIFFERENCES ARE OFTEN IN THE SMALL DETAILS.   An exploration by an artist, where people can just come in/ drop in.

An exploration of space in Belfast

Places to show the work and make the work, outside using those spaces

Let’s get outside the gallery space.


For me, it’s not about people’s stories its about exploring representation and photography.


Different approaches to this work in the community.


Exploring photography

But it comes down to the same thing – the photographer embedded and immersed in the organisation and/ or the photographer at large in the community.

BX facilitates both.


Wendy Ewald sees her practice not so much as making products as making models, leaving models behind. She talks about the context of making the work.


The evaluation of the pilot is the product so we want it to be more than a system or set of rules.  A simple set of outcomes.


Wendy Ewald……can we invite her over to talk about her work?

How big is the group?

Is there something about local photographers working with artists?

Culture Night at BX

We are again running events for Culture Night on Friday 20 September

At 6pm you can join a Gallery Tour of The Market by Mark Curran and pick up a Gallery Family Map. From 6pm to 8.30pm we will also run a Drop in Photogram Workshop.

If you are around town that night we would love to see you!It will be a good opportunity to take a tour of the current exhibition or re-acquaint yourself with the art of the darkroom by making your own photogram (please make sure that if you are bringing children they  are accompanied by an adult). Let us know if you have any questions.

Photogram image of citrus fruit below:


We are also delighted to launch the Gallery Family Map on Culture Night.  Call in with your kids from 6pm to pick up your free map and find out more about Belfast Galleries!


I have been undertaking a Photography Project with the BELB Inclusion Team working with a groups of young boys from the ROMA Community living in South Belfast.

The Project looks at the lives of the young people, their hopes and aspirations and what it means to a young ROMA boy living in Belfast.

In parallel to the photography project I have had the opportunity to document the BELB Inclusion team in their work to integrate and include the young ROMA boys into the traditional communities here, enabling an inclusive shared space for all to meet through activities and talks.

This is has been a fascinating experience documenting the activities and work of the team with the young people and now this is shared with you in these pictures.

The pictures include a BELB Youth Celebration event in The Waterfront Hall were young people from across Belfast came together, this was followed by a trip to the Hammer Community Centre with football being a major theme the ROMA boys through BELB have now a football team and they played a local team from the Hammer, this was followed by a group talk in which the boys were able to talk about their lives in Romania to a group of local young people who were going to pay a visit Romania.

During the summer the boys visited Corrymeela and Watertop Open farm, sharing a fun day with young people from Belfast undertaking team building activities and workshops to get to know each other.

Yesterday the group were part of the Suicide Awareness day at Belfast City Hall and the launch of a Mobile Youth Hub by FASA, the event was informative and also provided activities for young people, they got to meet some Tribute acts and of course the highlight being their group leader Jim Weir who sang at the event.

The BELB Team have really worked hard to include the young ROMA boys in every aspect of inclusion and now they have a new Football team and new kit thanks to all the hard work.

The boys photography work was part of our Valuable Reflections Exhibition and their own full exhibition will be held soon, I will keep you all posted.


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test printing in gps

Posted by Fergus Jordan Community Engagement team member.

Its been an exciting few days in GPS Colour test printing for my forthcoming series Garden Estate.

New Gallery Intern at Belfast Exposed

We would like to welcome Hannah Watson to the Belfast Exposed team as the new Gallery Intern.  Hannah is a recent graduate from the University of Ulster’s BAHons Photography degree course. Previous to this, she completed two years of a BA in English and Politics at Queens University Belfast, before making the decision to move on to follow a more creative pathway. Hannah has also been involved with political community based programmes developed by the YMCA and Y-Care International and aspires to build a career in the field of visual arts whilst continuing to develop her own practice. We are looking forward to working with Hannah on developing the bookshop and reading room programmes at Belfast Exposed.

This internship is supported through the Professional Experience Programme between the University of Ulster and Belfast Exposed.


Valuable Reflections workshop and exhibition

Some images taken during the Valuable Reflections workshops and exhibition recently. Find out more about the exhibition here on our new website:

P1050029 P1050039 P1050049 P1050063 P1050094

Pinhole Photography Workshop

Beautiful image taken by one of the participants in our recent Pinhole Photography workshop:

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Ciara and Fergus

Ciara and Fergus

Image by Simon Walker

The BX volunteer curatorial team: Christopher Gallagher, Faye Hobson, Fergus Jordan, Ryan Leathem, Ciara O’Halloran, Carole Phillips, Alison Steers, Simon Walker and Trevor Wilson, are busy preparing for our next exhibition, Resolutions, which they have developed through a series of workshops and sessions with the BX staff and invited independent curators.

Resolutions shows works by Robert Huber & Joanna Hopkins, Oscar Foster Kane, Ailise O’Neill and Sam Orchard.

Digital technology has transformed our ability to create, send, store and manipulate photographs. This group exhibition will investigate digital technology’s impact on contemporary photographic practice and how a new understanding of the photograph can be achieved through looking at process.

This exhibition is the first in a new series of explorative projects by Belfast Exposed that investigate the exhibition making process.
Image by Simon Walker.

Vol. Cur. Install-25

Photography and Social Justice: Feedback from the Chair

The event on Wednesday 12 June at Belfast Exposed,  brought 2 artists and 2 political activists together to consider relationships between photography practices in the gallery or photo book and political activism on the ground.  Speakers included Chris Gilligan, political activist and academic; Laurence McKeown, writer and playwright and former republican prisoner; Melanie Friend and Anthony Haughey, socially engaged artists working in photography.  It was clear from the opening presentations that there were areas of overlap and areas of difference between the thinking and approaches of the speakers.

Everyone talked about their ‘compulsion to act’ and how that sense of urgency had arisen. For Melanie it had come about through her experience as a photojournalist documenting the war in Kosovo, which gave her a powerful insight into the workings of a police state and the way everyday life is controlled, as state power intrudes into domestic space.  Although markedly different from the physical brutality of the police state, she wanted to draw attention to the emotional and psychological violence experienced by detainees caught up in the British immigration removal system. Her photographs drew attention to small but telling details  – the visitors rooms where detainees meet family and friends, with black lines on the floor dividing one from the other. Melanie played audio made from interviews and telephone calls from detainees, including a conversation with Isaac, who was, as they spoke, being forcibly removed by Border Agency guards. Melanie explained that detainees talked about the problem of dealing with the indefinite nature of their detention, not knowing its length or final outcome, as worse than the physical threat of forcible removal itself.

Chris Gilligan talked about what he called ‘the twilight zone of politics’, a situation where people find it difficult to imagine political solutions to the problems facing them. As an academic, Chris had researched public attitudes towards migration issues and had been intrigued by the ambivalence of the public opinion around issues of migration. For example, in surveys a majority might say that migrants put a strain on the NHS, while an even bigger majority would recognize the value migrant workers brought to the NHS. People valued their own freedom to travel but feared open borders. Chris felt that these contradictions opened a door to politics – the business of changing people’s minds.  Chris argued that opinion polls and surveys were passive ways of conceptualizing the public, only expressing individual reactions to tick box questions, rather than collective, considered or contested responses.  Being based in Scotland, he was using the independence referendum as a way of provoking discussion around immigration and border controls. Chris regarded this as a political project, while his work as a volunteer visiting detainees in Dunravel Immigration Removal Centre fulfilled a as humanitarian rather than political purpose. Chris’s opposition to immigration controls was based on his sense of justice.  For example, he had met a young man of 25, who was living in London since age of 5, but is going to be deported because he had got in trouble with the law. It was pure chance that the young man was born in another jurisdiction, and illogical and unjust that people like him should be forced to leave their home town or denied entry to another place simply through an accident of birth.

Laurence showed a series of photographs, which told the story of his own politicisation, which he described as largely a ‘struggle to preserve identity and humanity’ in prison.  Laurence was a republican prisoner in the H Blocks and had been part of the struggle for political status, through the no wash protest to the hunger strikes. Laurence’s first slide showed the exterior of the prison, now known as Long Kesh/ Maze, from the perspective of the outsider – a place of containment, high security and the ultimate expression of control.  The next series of images gave an insiders’ view, starting with artist Richard Hamilton’s use of an image of a hunger striker, originally taken from documentary film made when a British film crew, from Granada TV got access. The prisoner – Raymond McCartney – talks straight to the camera explaining why he is on hunger strike. Laurence points to his gaze, which is self directed, very different from the compromised gaze of a prisoner in a ‘mug shot’.  Laurence talked about the way prisoners took ownership of their image. He showed the ‘iconic’  image of Bobby Sands, which was selected and used by the prisoners as a statement against criminalization policy.  Photography is important because the relationship of the subject to the camera mirrors relationships of power in social contexts. One of the images was a group of prisoners in a cell, dressed in civilian clothes. Laurence explained, that the photograph was taken by a prison officer at the request of the prisoners.  Laurence’s final image was a portrait of Larry Marley who had planned the ‘great escape’ from the prison in 1983. Laurence suggested that some people saw the structures of power in a prison, while others were looking for the opening in the wall.

Anthony brought the discussion back to thinking how audiences respond to politically engaged work and the connection between thinking and acting. First of all he noted the assumption that an audience already exists, suggesting that audiences needs to be built, asking how do you bring an audience into the work and implicate them in the politics? For Anthony, it is important that everyone involved in the making of the work should be acknowledged.  Anthony showed some of his recent work, Citizen, which had involved significant numbers in its making. It’s the artist’s job to set up social situations, so people can experience reflect on political realities. The criminalization of movement across border or the absurdity of a formal citizenship test can be experienced and reflected upon through engagement with artists’ work.  Anthony’s motivation to work in this way with themes of migration grew out of his position as a socially engaged artist, interested in ideas emerging in society and thinking about how to interrupt, intervene and hold up a mirror.


The Q&A and feedback session raised some important questions from the floor that are worth reflecting upon, not least in terms of how Belfast Exposed is perceived as a civic space and what that implies:

Photography and different ways of seeing

Photography can bring focus, help people to see better and find their way through the ‘twilight world of politics’.

People should look for the detail in the photographs – e.g. the ‘black line’ in Melanie”s photographs, which highlight the impact of detention on human relationships.

It’s often hard to see what direction we are travelling in, let alone where we are going – photographs give us something to look back upon, to find out which way we are going.

 A questions was posed to Melanie about her focus on British state violence. What about the violence of the countries from which many of the asylum seekers were fleeing? Could the detention centres be seen as places of safety? How do we engage with politics through images, if the images are selected to only show one side of the story?

A former guard in an immigration removal centre offered an explanation for the ‘black line’ between visitor and detainee – to prevent drugs smuggling. He also challenged what he saw as a one sided view of violence. He had experienced violence himself, as a guard working in an immigration removal centre. The violence only arose when people resisted the law. Again, he suggested that the selection of photographs for an exhibition reflected a particular political world-view that should be open to challenge.

A contributor from the floor had been involved in political theatre, Red Ladder and Broadside, and knew the power of art to change hearts and minds. When we talk about socially engaged art are we just talking about good old fashioned propaganda?

 Photography, politics and representation

The publication of photographs of the prisoners during the H Block protests gave them a human face. It is very different for the 40 prisoners currently on hunger strike in Guantanamo. These men have no visibility, no political or human identity.

 A number of points from the floor illustrated the contested nature of politics and representation  in NI and the problem of talking about politics in ‘shared’ public space, including one person who expressed anger that Laurence had been permitted to present a one sided view of the republican prisoners’ story. He suggested another point of view – that Bobby Sands had committed suicide, and unlike the victims of IRA violence, he had been given a choice. Where was the balance?

 Photography, art and political action

 Does artists’ focus on – fascination with? – structures of power and control amplify the power of the state and minimize human or community agency?

 Are political ideas embodied in the art work or in public responses to the art work? Or does it work both ways?

Q.        Is making art a moral gesture, a political act or an act of solidarity?

 Melanie replied that she wanted the work to have an effect on people, to make them think. She also sent the work to Removal Centre managers, in the hope that they could make the removal centres more humane. More successfully she is aware that some of her Border Country work has been used to help train immigration lawyers.

 Q.        Making a series of photos, can it change the world?

 Anthony talked about the postcards made during Migrations, addressed from asylum seekers in Mosney detention camp in the Republic of Ireland, to the Irish Minister for Justice. The postcards were posted by detainees, shown in Belfast Exposed gallery and then sent to the minister. A very public highly visible statement was being made: art cannot necessary bring about social change on its own, but it can run alongside social and political activism.

 Arts, politics and the gallery as a political space

 An art space, whether it is in a railway station or a conventional gallery is always a thinking space. The question then arises how to translate thought into action

 Chris talked about the importance of having public space for political debate, especially heated debate. He referred to the protests in Turkey, and the way the state’s response – using violence to shut down dissent – actually feeds the conflict. Political debate reflects different ideas about where society should go. When questioning and debate are shut down, conflict inevitably arises. Apart from riot police and censorship, moral and political relativism also work to shut down debate. ‘We don’t want to argue, we prefer consensus so we no longer talk to each other about where we want society to go:’ relativism is containment – the political equivalent of kettling.

 Another contribution from the floor suggested that the protestors in Turkey might look like idealistic young people, but what about the challenge they are posing to a democratically elected government? Images of protest romanticise but don’t show the complexity of the situation.

 A point was made about the way a gallery could work as a human space, a welcoming open space, not necessarily a neutral space, but a space where ideas could be safely contested. The speaker thanked Belfast Exposed for opening up its space in this way.

 Summaries of points raised

Some of the questions and points raised from the floor were summarized back to the panel who were invited to sum up and round off the discussion

1. Politics is conflicted and polarized.  The ‘socially engaged ‘ photograph is partial, which is sometime the same as being misleading. That has implications for photography as a social document or political tool and the gallery as civic ‘neutral’ space.

2. Photography as a tool of mobilizing public opinion, is it propaganda, politics or art?

3. How do audiences engage with real politics and real issues of social justice in the context of an exhibition space?

4. Is art a humanizing force? A way of learning about cultures, rites of passages, providing opportunities for conversation? Is it emotional or political? Active or passive?

Some final thoughts

Melanie’s photographs illustrate the emotional violence embodied in the structures of containment. They offer a different perspective from the one we usually see portrayed in the media. They show another side and tell another story.

Chris felt that the talk and discussion demonstrated a healthy interest in politics in Belfast. ‘Through disagreement we get to agreement.’  He restated his position on border controls: ‘There shouldn’t be border controls. Laws about borders are entirely arbitrary and therefore unjust,’

Laurence agreed with the questioner who had challenged him about the issue of choice. The republican prisoners had exercised a political choice through going on hunger strike. People can choose to engage with a political struggle or not, that is a choice that everyone has to make.

For Anthony, art cannot be separated from politics. Art is political.

As a gallery, as a civic space, Belfast Exposed makes space for political views and ideas.

But we cannot say that we are a neutral space, we can’t step back and say we have no position on this issue, we are neutral. So, where do we stand? What is our position to be when contested political debate takes place in the gallery? Or when we show political work?

Afterwards – reflections

Issues around the prisons and the conflict make people very angry. A lot of people said how much they enjoyed the roundtable event and lots of political ideas were exchanged afterwards involving people who had quite different perspectives. And yet, someone emailed Belfast Exposed after the event expressing their ‘anger and disgust’ that BX had given a platform to republican viewpoints. This email questioned our position as a shared civic space. I wonder if other members of the audience felt like this. Or how many people don’t come to Belfast Exposed because of a negative perception around our political position? it’s an interesting and difficult question: how do galleries and museums negotiate public opinion and political conflict around contested and challenging histories?




Assisted self-portraits

anthony project image smallThis is an image of one of the pages in the diary I have been keeping during Anthony’s assisted self portrait sessions. I find the act of taking these images and reflecting on them a curious thing. We are so used to instantaneously capturing every moment with smart phones and digital devices that any way of slowing this process down nearly belongs to a bygone era.

I found it really exciting to not be able to preview images and to have a limited amount of film in the disposable cameras we were given. The act of taking a photograph therefore became deliberate, calculated and thorough, but still guided by the accidental, as you can never really predict what you have ultimately captured.

To further decelerate this process I chose to photocopy each image and enter it into a journal, that has really become a diary; an effective method of examining and analysing not just the images I took but why I took them and how they relate to me and the world around me. I have begun to re-photograph these pages, which have undergone a transformation from 3D back to 2D. Having the time to reflect on this process has been a luxury, and the first time in many months I have been able to participate in something that moves at a slower pace to everything else.

– Alissa

Photography and Social Justice discussion


We had a really good turnout for our Photography and Social Justice event and panel discussion today (also part of the Belfast Photo Festival). The panel, consisting of Chris Gilligan, Laurence McKeown, Melanie Friend, Anthony Haughey and chaired by Pauline Hadaway, were joined by an audience of over 25  people from 12 until after 2.30pm.

The conversation and discussion covered politics, the way prisoners are represented by the media, the physical and emotional issues surrounding detention centers, borders and immigration, representation and agency, amongst others.

Chris made a good point about the general use of the word ‘the public’ (which also indirectly I feel relates to the use of other collective terms like this, for instance ‘(the) community’). He questioned what ‘the public’ want, and discussed the fact that the ‘the public’ is not a collective entity, but that people, ‘the public’ often make conflicting demands, for instance about issues surrounding immigration.

Anthony discussed some of his recent projects, specifically his project Citizen, and spoke in detail about the capacity of photography to mobilise change. He stated that it may be naive to think that photographers can change the world but that actions such as initiating  projects like Citizen can do two things: Document and exhibit a situation, and allow a viewer/audience to become activated. The change this can bring about may not be immediate but may happen over time, allowing questions to be posed and issues to be addresses.  Chris stated that art itself cannot bring about social change but can run alongside social change and play an active role. This received a great response from members of the audience during the Q&A, allowing them to give their account of projects that they had been involved in that they felt had made a real, palpable difference.

Anthony also posed the question of how to mobilise the rarified gallery space. Pauline discussed this and also highlighted that by organising events such as today’s Photography and Social Justice discussion, and future events such as this, at which points are raised, discussed and questioned that ‘through disagreement we can get clarification’ and that Belfast Exposed is a space where different views can come together.

The Q&A that followed was fascinating and at times difficult, as some very direct and sometimes critical and challenging questions were asked. A former detention centre worker questioned Melanie Friend on her portrayal of these centers as places were visitors and their loved ones couldn’t have intimate contact, stating that this was enforced to prevent illegal substances and dangerous weapons from changing hands and putting staff at risk. He asked her how she imagined they should look instead.

Towards the end of the discussion, an elderly gentleman had come in to the gallery to view the current exhibition, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography. He sat down next to me and told me he did not know the discussion was on, but that he found it very refreshing to hear that the speakers, as well as the audience, were able to express quite opposing views in a neutral space in which these opinions were listened to, considered and discussed. He asked when the next event was and that he would certainly come back. For me, hearing that we have at least one new engaged follower (and there were more people in the audience who had never been to the gallery before), was exciting and I look forward to seeing him, and perhaps hearing about his point of view, at the next one.

– Alissa

‘ ……..shows Northern Irish photography as a healthy, vibrant and characteristically sceptical medium, in tune with global rather than parochial concerns – in that it is ahead of the game’.

Sean O’Hagan, Observer
Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography
 Observer  Photography Book of the Month 

‘ ……..shows…

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2013 Deutsche Borse prize

Monday night at the Photographer’s Gallery, Broomberg and Chanarin win the Deutsche Borse prize.


Hidden values

What if the benefits of projects that we consider to be ‘add ons’ – doing something different, learning a new skill, having a laugh and a joke – were actually considered integral…… How would that change the way we worked and the way we thought about the work we do…..?

Peer Review

It was a long journey, but good going together. image

Reflections on being a participant

LucasFoglia_ANaturalOrder_HomeschoolingThis picture makes me think about the way people simply  take it for granted that ‘participants’ want to be involved in making exhibitions -making the time to get involved, opening up their private thoughts and experiences, putting it all up onto a gallery wall for strangers to see. And all of this to be done over 6 weeks and a handful of ‘sessions’. As a participant myself I know how difficult it can be to find the time to get properly involved and how much you need to hold back, especially when you don’t know where the process is leading. I’m enjoying learning about photograph,trying my hand at taking photographs. Landscapes are definitely much easier for me to negotiate than portraits.p

Thresholds at BX

THRESHOLDS: Our current exhibition ‘Thresholds’, curated by Ciara Hickey and featuring works by Maja Daniels, Stephen Gill, Sophie Ristelhueber, Luke Stephenson, Peter Watkins & Tereza Zelenkova, opened on the 14th of March at 7pm.

This is what Wendy McMurdo, a Facebook contributor, said: ‘Fantastic show – congrats to all involved. Enjoyed my sneak preview on the 14th!’

Thresholds opening 1

Thresholds opening 5
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION: The perceived veracity of a photographic image, combined with its ultimate ambiguity, creates a unique space where fiction and truth intertwine. It is at this permeable border between reality and fiction that a photograph becomes a threshold to an infinite series of meanings. This exhibition explores the relationship between truth, fiction and fantasy within documentary photography.

Thresholds opening 3The artists included in Thresholds have each created a series of work documenting a specific subject or site. Every resulting image poses a challenge to our expectations of reality, and resonates with the realm of the imaginary.

(images from the opening night, above)

GUIDED ARTIST TALK: On the 15th of March, Ciara Hickey and artists Maja Daniels, Luke Stephenson, Peter Watkins and Tereza Zelenkova gave a guided tour and artists talk. We had a great turnout and it was a privilege to have so many of the exhibiting artists present.

Talk 1

DRAWING ON DREAMS: We partnered with  Young at Art to run Drawing on Dreams Children’s Workshop on the 9th of March as part of the Belfast Children’s Festival.

A group of children, aged 7 to 10,  joined artist Anushiya Sundaralingam on a visual adventure where they looked closely at the photographs in the exhibition Thresholds and recreated them as an imaginative installation.

The results were very impressive, and the installation is a great addition to the exhibition downstairs, demonstrating an effective way of combining art education and programming.

Drawing on Dreams 1 Drawing on Dreams 2 Drawing on Dreams 3

Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay

This is part of my assisted self portrait series…learning abut photography as a means of expression. The seascape is my home town. I’m sitting in a cafe reflecting on visual languages as way to express mood……

Mark Curran at FORMAT

We were excited to hear that Mark Curran will show The Breathing Factory at the Chocolate Factory venue during FORMAT International Photography Festival 2013 (08 March – 07 April).

BX supported the publication of the The Breathing Factory in 2006 and we currently stock the publication in our bookshop.

Follow this link to the Format website for more details. You can find out more about Mark’s involvement with Belfast Exposed here.


Mick, Line Operator, Nitro, Building 8, 15.37 p.m., Monday, December 1st, 2003. Copyright Mark Curran.


Upcoming events at Belfast Exposed

We have a jam-packed event schedule planned for March; there is something in there for everybody!

  • On March 07 at 6pm we will launch our very own Photobook Club for World Book Day. We have invited three photo book collectors to present and discuss their favourite books, which will be followed by a discussion on the photo book format.

a DSC_1341The Photobook Club aims to promote and enable discussion surrounding the photo book format, in particular looking at old, rare and influential photography books from the 20th century onwards.  The Photobook Club is run by Wayne Ford and Matt Johnston and you can find more about other Photobook Club events here.

  • On March 09 at 11am we will host Drawing on Dreams, a storytelling and art workshop for children aged 7 to 10.

START-imageIn this workshop children will have the opportunity to view and talk about artwork in Thresholds, the upcoming exhibition at Belfast Exposed (see below) which looks at storytelling, the imagination and fantasy within photography. The group will then create their own artwork inspired by this exhibition, which will be displayed in the Exchange Space Gallery at Belfast Exposed from 15 March until 22 March.

  • Our new show, Thresholdsopens on March 14 at 7pm. The exhibition is curated by Ciara Hickey and features works by  Maja Daniels, Stephen Gill, Sophie Ristelhueber, Luke Stephenson, Peter Watkins & Tereza Zelenkova.

MADY & MONETTE The perceived veracity of a photographic image, combined with its ultimate ambiguity, creates a unique space where fiction and truth intertwine. It is at this permeable border between reality and fiction that a photograph becomes a threshold to an infinite series of meanings. This exhibition explores the relationship between truth, fiction and fantasy within documentary photography. The artists included in Thresholds have each created a series of work documenting a specific subject or site. Every resulting image poses a challenge to our expectations of reality, and resonates with the realm of the imaginary (image by Maja Daniels, Mady and Monette, dance rehearsal, 2011)

  • The following day, on March 15 between 10.30am and 3.30pm, we will host Examining Exceptional Practice in Arts Education, an essential event for anyone involved in arts education including parents, facilitators, artists, teachers and policy makers.  This event is presented by Belfast Exposed in partnership with the Ulster Museum and Young at Art.

The day will consist of two sessions: Session 1 aims to inspire and inform new projects by presenting case studies of truly innovative practice from all over the U.K and Ireland. A discussion will follow on the role of art within schools in a time of cutbacks and social instability. The session will also offer practical advice and networking opportunities for schools wishing to get involved with their local arts organisation.

vauvaSession 2 will feature a presentation by the Pori Centre for Children’s Culture, Finland, in association with the Ulster Museum. Colour Workshop for Babies is a visual art workshop designed by the Pori Centre for children under one year of age and their families. In this presentation, the Pori Centre will discuss their approach in developing interactive art with babies.

(image: Pori Centre for Children’s Culture website)

The Village, an exhibition by Hans Klemmer

Last week we opened Hans Klemmer’s photography exhibition The Village in our Exchange Gallery.
Klemmer has documented ‘The Village’ neighbourhood in south-west Belfast, a once thriving, historically significant area that is now in the process of being knocked down and rebuilt by the Housing Executive.

The images in the exhibition, chosen from a collection of several hundred photographs, are the result of more than two years of photographing the people and structures in The Village and are supplemented by images from the BX archive taken by Sean McKernan, Mervyn Smyth and the Windsor Women’s Centre.

Hans Klemmer is partnering with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, which has been working to defend traditional red brick terraced dwellings across the city and continues to promote them as a platform for job creation and heritage-led regeneration.

The opening was very well attended (especially since it competed with another seven exhibition openings in the city centre that night, including an Andy Warhol retrospective at the MAC!) and it was great to see the families whose homes were documented by Klemmer attend the opening.

The image below is of Bryan Stevenson in front of the image that Klemmer took of him outside his home in The Village.

Hans Klemmer is an American photographer from the Chicago area with a particular interest in documenting historic architecture who has been working as an image-maker and photography lecturer for nearly 30 years. He completed his Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Ulster in 2012.

DSCN1033The volunteers who work at Belfast Exposed play a hugely important role in the way the gallery operates on a day-to-day basis. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday for 5 hours a day and between them the BX volunteers work 25 hours a week to ensure that visitors are welcomed and information about current and upcoming exhibitions is shared in a variety of different ways.

Many of our volunteers are artists and photographers or involved in the arts at some level. We have therefore started to develop projects that enable them to explore various aspects of the organisation and to put forward ideas and proposals.

We have just commenced Volunteers Curate, a project that will provide our volunteers with the opportunity to organize/curate an exhibition this summer. The process of producing a final exhibition will allow the participating volunteers to experience and learn–in a hands-on way–about all aspects of curating: researching and developing ideas for an exhibition; applying for funding; working with artists; installing and marketing and documenting the process and the show. The final exhibition will be the visual result of this explorative and experimental curatorial process.

DSCN1034Over a six-month period the volunteers will work as a group to curate the exhibition and a series of workshops will take place for the group to brainstorm on ideas for the project. Each discussion will be mentored and Chaired by a member of the BX Exhibitions team.  External curators will be invited to BX to share their experience and methods of curating, opening up discussion on different curatorial models.

The exhibition will be curated within the framework of the 30-year anniversary of Belfast Exposed and could possibly refer-to, or discuss aspects of, the organisation’s history and output over the last 30 years.

Volunteers can play towards their strengths and become more involved in different aspects of the exhibition process. For example, marketing, technical skills, writing, organising events/talks, curating, funding applications.

The learning process will be documented for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation program.

X Marks the Bökship talk and useful links

The Belfast Exposed Bookshop, situated at the front of the gallery, runs an active programme of talks and events, inviting a broad range of speakers to discuss book–and self-publishing–related topics. On the 31st of January (Thursday) at 6pm the BX bookshop was proud to host Eleanor Vonne Brown, who runs X Marks the Bökship, one of London’s most innovative independent bookshops. It proved to be an ideal opportunity to bring together some of Belfast’s art book lovers.P1040110 P1040134

What makes X Marks the Bökship so unique it’s multi-varied output. It sells a range of limited edition artist books and combines publishing with public launches and publisher-of-the-month events. It also hosts talks, screenings and gigs, which are often recorded. Eleanor played back a recording of a recent event, a scripted all-day sound performance which was participant-led and actively engaged with the Bökship’s visitors.

The Bökship also regularly runs food-based events, such as the recent launch of the ‘Studio Cook Book’, a selection of recipes compiled by various studio groups. The launch was accompanied by an impressive pot-luck dinner.

P1040155 P1040169

The majority of the publications the Bökship stocks are printed with Risograph, as the process involves real ink – like offset printing – and does not require heat to fix the image on the paper. The Risograph bridges the gap between a standard photocopier and using a commercial printer and makes self-publishing much more affordable. A selection of publications launched and published by X Marks the Bökship were passed around at the talk  (view  X Marks the Bökship books here on their site)

P1040161 P1040176

Some of the independent publishers that Eleanor mentioned during her talk that may be of interest were:

Preston is My Paris



Eleanor also cited the German based independent bookshop/publisher Motto as a reference and spoke about the self-publishing service Lulu, for anyone interested in producing their own limited edition publications.

You can read more on alternative spaces for art and X Marks the Bökship in this text (pdf) by Ksenia Cheinman: uncommon_commons-link

Reading Room Resource


The Reading Room has really taken off in the last few weeks. Laura (Gallery Intern) has been working hard to ensure the shelves are kept well stocked and there is an ever changing display of titles. Bookings can be made and the Reading Room is used as a resource by students, artists and workshop participants. All titles can be accessed online and, as there continues to be a curated selection of images running alongside the main exhibition, the Reading Room is constantly updated. It is really great to be able to make this pre-existing collection of often limited edition and rare photography titles available to others.

Below is a shot taken in the gallery of the selection of books running alongside ou current exhibition A Natural Order, by Lucas Foglia. Once the exhibition ends these titles will added to a dedicated shelf in the Reading Room.

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A Natural Order

Currently showing at Belfast Exposed is A Natural Order by Lucas Foglia, which looks at the lives of communities of people across the United States who have chosen to live ‘off the grid’.

Lucas Foglia (b. 1983) was raised on a small family farm in New York and is currently based in San Francisco. A graduate of Brown University and Yale School of Art, Lucas exhibits and publishes his photographs internationally.

Image credits: Jasmine, Hannah and Cecilia Swimming, Tennessee © Lucas Foglia, 2008 (left) Homeschooling Chalkboard, Tennessee © Lucas Foglia, 2008 (right)

for web LucasFoglia_ANaturalOrder_Homeschooling

The exhibition opened on Thursday 17th January from 7pm – 9pm.

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The opening was well attended, and despite snowy weather and rumours of further (flag related) trouble over 35 people attended Lucas’s talk the next day.

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Belfast Exposed TV

We have now uploaded a series of videos to our Youtube channel, Belfast Exposed TV.

These short videos were shot at the day of discussion on Conflict, Memory and Commemoration held at the gallery on 31 October 2012.

We interviewed speakers, visitors and community partners and asked them about their relationship with the organization and their response to the topics discussed at the seminar.

You can view a selection of videos below and watch the rest on our Youtube channel by clicking here


Theresa McVeigh[youtube

Stevie Downes[youtube

Christine O’Toole[youtube

Eugenie Dolberg


January Events


HAPPY 2013!

This will be a special year for Belfast Exposed as the organisation celebrates its 30-year anniversary.

We have programmed an exciting range of events and exhibitions over the coming months.

Coming up in JANUARY:

18 January – 01 March
Opening 17 January, 19:00 – 21:00
A Natural Order by Lucas Foglia

An exhibition by Lucas Foglia that looks at the lives of communities of people across the United States who have chosen to live ‘off the grid’.

24 January – 01 February
Around the Allotments
The Exchange Space

Photographic work by Stevie Gill, a previous student of Belfast Exposed. This exhibition is in collaboration with the Cedar Project.

31 January
18:00 – 19:00
X Marks the Bokship
BX Bookshop

Eleanor Vonne Brown from X Marks the Bokship (London) will discuss the creative programming which animates one of London’s most exciting and dynamic art bookshops.

( Image from the Belfast Exposed START project with Sacred Heart Primary School)

End of Year Progress Evaluation Session

Last Tuesday, (18 December) Belfast Exposed hosted a get together for staff, Board and engagement team members to reflect on the progress of Belfast Exposed’s participation in Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Our Museum programme, followed by sandwiches and mince pies.
It provided an opportunity to catch up on events, share information and feedback and raise questions and concerns, helping us to plan more effectively for the year ahead.
Attendees all gave an overview of recent projects and also future plans that address PHF aims and objectives.
This was followed by a casual lunch also attended by BX volunteers, allowing engagement team members and new volunteers to meet and discuss ideas.
2013 marks Belfast Exposed’s 30th Birthday, and promises to be a jam-packed year of celebration, commemoration, new connections and exciting projects that involve a variety of participants and audiences.


Book-related events at BX

At BX we have had a lot of book-related activity in the last couple of months, with the further development of the Belfast Exposed Bookshop and more recently with the opening of the Reading Room.

The Reading Room is a dedicated shared space for research and reflection. Located on the first floor, it holds a wide range of books that trace the history of Belfast Exposed. It contains books that have informed BX’s research and projects, self-published titles, exhibition catalogues, and an extensive collection of photography journals. It also features a collection of special interest books relating to previous exhibitions as recommended by the artist and curator. All titles have been catalogued digitally, and can be searched by title, keyword or author.

The Reading Room provides a quiet and comfortable environment to browse the collection. It is designed as a shared resource open to everyone working with us, from artists and community photographers to volunteers, workshop participants, researchers and academics.

On Thursday 06 December the Reading Room opened its doors to the public for the first time for a tour of the space in progress where we welcomed feedback, comments and recommendations from visitors for this new resource.

You can browse the collection of books online here

Below are some images:

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Dublin Art Book Fair

Gallery Intern Laura McMorrow recently attended the second edition of the Dublin Art Book Fair at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (30 November – 02 December) . Last year the organization sent down a selection of books but this year Laura was able to attend a stall in person for two days, which was a great opportunity to meet new independent publishers and promote the gallery to new audiences.

Temple Bar Gallery + Studios had invited 30 of the most exciting publishers of art books from around the world, giving visitors a chance to find unusual ‘zines, catalogues and artist books that are not normally found in Ireland.

Belfast Exposed produces publications to support the presentation and distribution of socially engaged forms of contemporary photographic practice.

The BX selection at the Book Fair included some of the organization’s key texts ‘Where are The People?’‘Border Country’, and ‘Archive_Belfast’.

Below are some images taken on the day (courtesy of Ciaran Hussey):

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Streets Ahead participants speak out:

Mervyn Smyth, our Workshop Co-ordinator, has been working closely with a group of young people on the Streets Ahead project, based in the Old Warren/Hilden/Maze Lisburn areas.

The aim of the project is to enable all people in the area to work together using photography as a medium,opening dialogue contributing to good community relations, community safety and pride.

As a result of attending a public discussion with a number of key political commentators the workshop participants created texts to accompany an image that they took (see below).

Streets Ahead recognizes the need for young people to have an opportunity to have their voices heard and the texts and images address issues/observations about things in their own community that they would like to discuss.

Below are contributions by Chandler, Chris, Danielle, Dean, Janna, Jason, Natalie, Kymberley, Nathan, Leah, Rachel, Blake and Shannon, who all participated in the project.

Image above chosen by Janna – ‘This project/youth group has helped me gain a number of important qualifications which I will need for my career. Because we are now getting a new youth building built for us it will also help to keep young people and people of all ages off the street and help the community as a whole to progress forward. There are also many activities that people of my age group are taking part in which gives us something to do, as you will find there is nothing else for us to do. It helps us with teamwork and diversity, which I think is brilliant due to the economy we live in today. I would like to thank all my youth leaders for helping me and my companions. This youth project also helped me to speak up in front of politicians and be the voice of the young people. This helped me gain confidence and I felt better within myself after speaking to them. They gave me very positive feedback which gave me a positive mind for the future.’

Image above taken by Chris – ‘Litter in Hillhall is terrible. There is rubbish everywhere. This is very unhygienic as there are many young people about here’

Image above taken by Rachel – ‘I am very happy that we are getting a new youth house as I very much enjoy going to my youth club but our current house is very small. I really enjoy the activities we do’

Danielle – ‘In the Lowroad we work in a flat which has limited equipment and in the area there is an old primary school left abandoned which could be renovated into a community/youth facility!’

Image above taken by Chandler – ‘For adults to see the light of the youth’


Image above taken by Blake

Image above taken by Nathan  – ‘A better park for Hillhall’

Nathan – ‘We are really glad that we can get new fishing facilities We really need funding to get it’

Image above taken by Jason – ‘I would like to see a football pitch on the green site that is only used once a year for the bonfire’

Jason and Natalie – ‘A new community facility in Hillhall will mean all residents young and old will have a place to go and enjoy. There will be more space for youth projects which means we can do a better range of activities’

Image above taken by Natalie –‘ I would like to see more services and activities going on at the Surestart Centre for young children and families. This is a recently built building and I don’t like to see it empty.’

Image above taken by Shannon – ‘The climbing frame in the Huguenot Park is unsuitable and unsafe. The local children were told when the builders were making the park that there were swings and a slide being built. To their disappointment there wasn’t. Swings and a slide would be more suitable than a wooden climbing frame. If the climbing frame is wet it becomes slippery and could cause children to injure themselves!’


Image above taken by Leah – ‘In the Maze area we suffer from isolation. We are still waiting on improvement. There are no traffic lights. Not many streetlights. This is very dangerous for young children. Speed limits are too high’


Kymberley – ‘Health issues amongst pensioners in Hillhall need to be improved’


Image above taken by Dean – ‘Where I live there are a lot of young people going about  and now that it is darker it is getting more dangerous to walk home. So I would like to for more street lights around to make our community a safer place’

‘In Belfast’, an exhibition of work by the Roma Community

As a result of a partnership between Bryson Intercultural, Public Achievement and Belfast Exposed, young people from the Roma community in Belfast have had the opportunity to express themselves through photography, creating a compelling gallery of images that juxtaposes what they want Belfast to be with their everyday experience of the city.

These images convey some aspects of what it is like for this settled community to live in the often transient Holylands area of South Belfast, surrounded by temporary residents, ‘To Let’ signs and hostels.

The photographs will be exhibited in the Exchange Gallery from Friday 09 November and will be open to the public for two weeks.

Below is a selection of images from the workshops. Any comments will be much appreciated.

Day of discussion on Conflict, Memory and Commemoration at Belfast Exposed

On October 31, 2012, Belfast Exposed hosted a seminar on Conflict, Memory and Commemoration, exploring issues of visual storytelling and testimony and how photographers and artists may get beyond reportage, to the heart of community stories and experience.

The day kicked off with arrival and registration at 9.30am, followed by case studies and a Q&A session chaired by Belfast Exposed director Pauline Hadaway.

Speakers included Paul Seawright (Artist and Professor of Photography at the University of Ulster) Peter Richards, Breandan Clarke (Golden Thread Gallery/ Draw Down the Walls)  and Eugenie Dolberg (photographer, curator and author of Open Shutters Iraq)

Paul Seawright presented a selection of work made by three young emerging Northern Irish photographers and discussed relationships between photography and local contexts – history, politics and community – in Northern Ireland, and the particular rewards and challenges associated with these (

Peter Richards and Breandan Clarke presented Draw Down the Walls, a collaboration between the North Belfast Interface Network, Golden Thread Gallery, Lower Shankill Community Association, Ardoyne Women’s Group and Tar Isteach, which utilizes art an a primary engagement tool for community relations. As part of this they discussedAmbulatario, a project by Columbian artist Oscar Munoz that re-imagines a contentious interface area in north Belfast.

(see link for more information:…)

Eugenie Dolberg spoke about the limitations of reportage from her perspective as an artist and photojournalist, and the visual storytelling approaches she employed in realizing Open Shutters Iraq– a project involving participants from a range of social, political and religious backgrounds who came together in Damascus between 2006 – 07 to share their experiences and learn about photography, before returning to Iraq to reflect upon the effects of conflict on their lives.

(see link for more information)

Audience members were able to respond during the Q&A session.

At lunch time we invited visitors to respond and filmed these reflections, which we will post up in the coming weeks. The variety of responses were great and include feedback from the speakers, funders, community workers, researchers and artists.

Participants could attend three practical workshops in the evening:

Workshop 1: in Alternatives to funding Johnny Gailey discussed the pros and cons of crowd funding – a mechanism for kick starting projects and engaging audiences at an early stage, whilst building momentum and creating community – from his personal experience. He invited participants to discuss potential projects and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of some examples of crowd funding projects.

Workshop 2: in Developing a visual storytelling project Eugenie Dolberg presented her ideas for developing a new project in Northern Ireland and participants contributed their own ideas and thoughts about personal projects at a very early stage of development.

Workshop 3: in Supporting artists working in collaborative ways Anthony Luvera discussed the needs of artists and photographers seeking to develop collaborations and relationships with communities. Participants discussed the ethical and practical challenges of the kind of practice, the type of support available (through funding etc.) and touched on the type of support that artists need.

Following the discussions, workshop participants and facilitators attended a Feedback and Action points session. A range of questions were posed by participants:

Those who took part in Workshop 1 asked ‘wether alternative funding can become a way of doing the R+D for your project effectively and having it funded,  and is this an alternative to funding?’  ‘How can you maximise crowd funding, using it as a fast way to get the project moving, developing participants and doing the initial R+D and ‘how do we ensure that funders don’t stop funding R+D and point artists in the direction of crowd funding?’

‘How do you maxmise the development of the intial R+D ensuring you secure further funding and can this happen by using it as matched funding or by helping the funder see the relevance of your project?’

Developing a sense of trust between the projects(leader) and the public was repeatedly flagged as a way to ensure that a project is popular and has a sense of delivering something beneficial and positive or making a real change. ‘Is having a reward/something people get from the project important and alongside developing funding does crowd funding also create a community and support network as well as acting as research?’

A much raised issue was how projects can be not just by artists but also by the communities involved. Suggested was that each member of the workshop would attempt to start their own crowd funding project and then feedback on it’s success (or failure).

Participants from Workshop 2 discussed when the output/outcome of a project should be decided upon and how a final showcase element that has fluidity can be developed over the course of the project. ‘How do you take an idea and develop it into a project without preconceived ideas, ensuring it is free and creatively led?’

‘How important is the documenting of the process and how do we create a wider understanding of the process? (can documentation have an active role in this?)’

It was again emphasized how important it is to ensure that participants are involved from the beginning, that a project is necessary, and sometimes even critical, and how projects with passion behind them are most successful. ‘How do we develop and show this passion?’ Ensuring that a programme is sensitive and finely attuned to the needs of the participants and that learning by listening takes place was stressed as paramount.

What was also emphasized was the need to create a realisation with the funders that funding needs to be more ongoing and not just project-led, and the importance of the relationships, support and understanding between artists, participants and funders. ‘How do you work with your funder to make them a champion who is on the journey with you?’ If we participate with the funder can we create an organic change within the funder and create a positive relationship that will lead to them moving on with you where possible.

Suggested was that some participants could create practical videos to be shared with each other.

Participants from Workshop 3 also emphasize the importance of creating a sense of trust and emphasizing intentions and values from the beginning of a project and to ensure that clear intentions and transparency between funders, participants and artists exists. When trying to measure the impacts of the programme it is also important to ask the question; who wasn’t involved in the discussion? Very often community voices simply are not heard. ‘It is essential that we include the voices that are not heard when trying to measure these impacts. How can we do this?’

‘How do we facilitate a programme of discussion between younger artists and the policy makers/ funders?’ This dialogue is essential for young artists to understand and influence the decisions of policy makers and funders.

The word ‘community’ was questioned. ‘What is it and how can we gauge the complexity of it’?

It was considered important to develop collective ownership when building a project with the community and to also ensure that the project is fluid and participant led.

There was a concern wether the written impacts for the community actually happening or if these are just a paper exercise. ‘How do you measure some of these impacts and how do we create a realisation with the funders that the impacts are part of the process and not the be all and end all?’

‘How do we create a realisation with the funders that is important to support people and organisations and not just projects?’

Some Actions raised:

  1. To record discussion that can be used to evaluate/document processes and to share these with each other.
  2. To consider who is and isn’t taking part in discussion and ensure that the unheard voices in these discussions are included.
  3. To ensure that the development cycle of the project is essential and that when planning programmes this pre-programme phase is kept in mind and developed.
  4. Not to pre-determine the output but rather create processes that may decide on the final output.
  5. To avoid excessive checklists and instead create projects that have a fluidity and have the ability to grow in different directions.
  6. To share the experience organizations have developed over many years and across artforms.

It was a fruitful day and some of the questions posed will hopefully lead to future seminars, projects and debates surrounding community.