Belfast Photo Festival returns to the city offering alternatives perspectives on our world

 Preparations for Belfast Photo Festival
 Preparations for Belfast Photo Festival

THE grounds of Belfast City Hall, Botanic Gardens, Queen's University, Queen's Island, Belfast Harbour Quay and the Stormont Estate will be backdrops for captivating visual art as the Belfast Photo Festival returns to the city next week.

Running from June 2-30, this year's festival, under its theme The Verge, explores untold stories, underrepresented narratives and perspectives on the world that too often go unseen, through compelling and immersive exhibitions in galleries and public spaces throughout the city.

Belfast's Golden Thread Gallery is the venue for A Bigger Picture, an exhibition of work by emerging photographic artists from the feminist and LGBT+ communities who invite us to view Northern Ireland through a different lens.

Artists include Shannon Ritchie, Gareth Sweeney and Emma Campbell, a member of the 2021 Turner Prize winning Array Collective.

"Northern Irish photography has established itself internationally as having a distinct and recognisable sensibility. However, it remains widely viewed as a masculine terrain, dominated by male voices." remarks exhibition curator Dr Clare Gallagher, a lecturer in photography at Ulster University's Belfast School of Art.

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

Among this year's other highlights is Alternative Ulster, a new body of work by renowned Japanese artist Kensuke Koike which draws on the photographic archives of National Museums NI and the Public Records Office to present an alternative vision of Northern Ireland's past.

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

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

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

:: belfastphotofestival.com