Belfast Exposed Photography are delighted to announce plans for the opening of their retrospective 35th anniversary photographic exhibition which provides a unique insight into political, cultural and social change in Belfast and beyond since 1983, to be held at the Artcetera Gallery Belfast.
The exhibition offers an array of powerful and invaluable historical images by the many individual photographers and communities who have engaged with the project since 1983 were selected by Belfast Exposed Co-Founder Sean McKernan and Community Engagement Manager Mervyn Smyth from the Archive Collection, which contains approximately one million images.
Founded in 1983 by a group of local photographers as a challenge to media representation of the city’s experience of conflict, our work continues to reflect a socially engaged ethos, while responding to contemporary currents in photography and politics further afield. Thirty-five years ago, the small team of local photographers created an exhibition of amateur photography reflecting the experience of Belfast from the inside. The exhibition was called ‘Belfast Exposed’, and initially comprised of over 600 photographs and slides, articulating the life of the city from predominantly working class perspectives. Opening on 17 October 1983 at the People’s Theatre, Conway Mill, Falls Road.
Opening the exhibition at the Bank of Ireland Gallery in Baggot Street, Dublin in 1984, Seamus Heaney described “Belfast Exposed as a marvellous moment” and remarked on the “powerful, democratic feel running through these photographs” which documented a common experience of unemployment, poor housing and economic deprivation, at once intensified by the effects of conflict and sectarian division and alleviated by the gritty humour and reality of working class Belfast life.
Attempting to forge solidarities across Belfast’s sectarian divide, Belfast Exposed Community Photography Project, as the group came to be known, represented the work of photographers from a range of political backgrounds, while recruiting a ‘cross community’ steering committee and bringing the critically acclaimed Belfast Exposed exhibition to communities throughout Belfast and as a result of it’s growing success the exhibition travelled both nationally and internationally up to 2001.
In the years that followed, new photographic practices began to emerge in Northern Ireland, providing critical tools for reimagining the future in a rapidly changing region. While community experience of conflict remained an important focus of our work, the challenge was to make this work more relevant and accessible for a new generation of audiences and photographers. Since moving to the city’s Cathedral Quarter in 2003. Belfast Exposed has engaged with many thousands of people: photographers, artists, activists, local communities, visitors to the city, students, school children and the public at large. Each has contributed to a substantial portfolio of exhibitions, publications and projects, often informed by questions that resonate with local experience: representation, identity, history, memory, commemoration and attachment to place.
Inspired by Belfast Exposed’s Archive, approximately 300 photographic prints have been selected to create this anniversary exhibition.
Belfast Exposed would like to thank Belfast's oldest pub Kelly's Cellars for sponsoring the opening night of the exhibition. All welcome.