Northern Ireland: 30 Years of photography. Belfast Exposed
‘Soldier Behind Shield, Northern Ireland’ (1973) © Philip Jones Griffiths. Courtesy of Magnum
On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, Belfast Exposed is delighted to be working in partnership with the MAC to present Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography, an ambitious exhibition featuring almost 200 photographs. Since the 1980s Northern Ireland has produced a distinctive body of photographic work by photographers from within and outside Northern Ireland. Many of the photographers to be included in the exhibition have established global reputations, but have not previously been considered in any sustained way as group of photographers interacting with each other’s work. The exhibition focuses on the growth of new, fine-art documentary practices, more often produced for the gallery space and the photo-book rather than for a press or media context.
‘Belfast Zoo, III’ (1983) From Belfast Zoo © Victor Sloan. Courtesy of the artist
Taking a historical and thematic approach, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography begins with the media imagery of the Troubles that compelled photographers and artists to intervene in the flow of press photography that dominated a global, visual portrayal of Northern Ireland in the 1970s. From this response, and influenced by wider, international trends in contemporary photography, an engaged and often polemic aesthetic emerged, individual to each photographer but also shared across diverse photographic practices. With the Peace Process in the 1990s a new dynamic entered the scene which required photographers to think about the social and political past and future of Northern Ireland, and which also offered new opportunities for exhibiting and publishing work.
‘Butterfly Catchers’ (1999) © Hannah Starkey. Courtesy of Maureen Paley Gallery
While presenting an analysis of its broad aesthetics, the exhibition also questions the extent to which the theme of conflict has dominated our view of Northern Irish photography. The photographers presented in the exhibition have formulated their visual language and its way of seeing Northern Ireland from wider photographic influences and from the gradual acceptance of photography as a gallery-based art form. Through the inclusion of work by photographers with a keen sense of trends and debates in the wider contexts of contemporary photography and art, the exhibition presents photography in and from Northern Ireland as a reflection of place in the broadest possible sense.
Police Service of Northern Ireland, Knocknagoney Station, Photography Branch, Photostudio Backdrop’ from Archive_Belfast (2004) ©
Photographers include Craig Ames, Sylvia Grace Borda, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Ursula Burke, John Byrne, Victoria J. Dean, Willie Doherty, John Duncan, David Farrell, Malcolm Craig Gilbert, Paul Graham, Philip Jones Griffiths, Anthony Haughey, Kai-Olaf Hesse, Sean Hillen, Claudio Hils, Daniel Jewesbury, Peter Marlow, Gareth McConnell, Patrick McCoy, Moira McIver, Mary McIntyre, Sean McKernan, Eoghan McTigue, Jonathan Olley, Mark Power, Paul Quinn, Paul Seawright, Victor Sloan, Mervyn Smyth, Hannah Starkey and Donovan Wylie.
Installation detail, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography, Belfast Exposed, May 2013
The exhibition is curated by Karen Downey, Senior Curator at Belfast Exposed. Karen also works as an independent curator. In 2009 she curated Northern Ireland’s presentation at the 53rd Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition by Susan MacWilliam, and in 2011 she curated Versions and Diversions at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin. In 2012 she was Lead Curator and Editor for Into the Light: The Arts Council – 60 Years of Supporting the Arts.
detail, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography, Belfast Exposed, May 2013
The exhibition is accompanied by a substantial publication, Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography by Colin Graham. Colin Graham lectures at NUI Maynooth, and was previously Reader in English at Queen’s University Belfast. He is the author of Ideologies of Epic andDeconstructing Ireland. He is co-editor of the journal The Irish Review, and of three collections of essays. He has published articles in many journals, including Cultural Studies, Third Text, Journal of Visual Culture, Irish Studies Review, The Dublin Review and Source.
10 May | 11am | Curator’s Tour with Karen Downey starting at Belfast Exposed
17 May | 1-2pm | Curator’s Tour with Karen Downey starting at Belfast Exposed
17 May | 2-3.30pm | MAC
Public discussion event with Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography curator Karen Downey, publication author Colin Graham and photographers, Sylvia Grace Borda, John Duncan, Mary McIntyre, Paul Seawright, and Donovan Wylie.
7 June | 12noon-1pm |Factory Space MAC
Public lecture by publication author Colin Graham.
15 June | 1pm – 1.45pm | BX Bookshop
Talk with Keith Connolly of Tonic Design, on his design for the NI:30 Years publication.
From Belfast Exposed