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Journey through time and place with Belfast Photo Festival this June

Date: 31 May 2023

Category: Things to do

Longing For Love, 2018 from the series A Myth of Two Souls © Vasantha Yogananthan

Belfast Photo Festival has revealed its full programme as it prepares to exhibit works from international visual artists in galleries and public spaces throughout the city from June 1–30.

This year’s compelling works are intended to lead audiences on journeys through a variety of places, histories and perspectives.

Commenting on the programme, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Tina Black says: “We are so fortunate to have such high- quality cultural organisations like the Belfast Photo Festival in this city; they offer us wonderful opportunities to enrich – and journey beyond - our daily lives, gaining new perspectives on the world around us in the process. 

“Belfast City Council is proud to support this festival and I’m so pleased to see that we’re hosting the group exhibition A Right of Passage in our beautiful Botanic Gardens, making this artwork accessible to everyone who visits. My congratulations to all the team and exhibiting artists in curating and creating such an inspirational body of work.”

Clare Gormley, Head of Programmes & Partnerships at Belfast Photo Festival, adds: “This edition of Belfast Photo Festival, we explore how artists in the contemporary moment are interpreting the idea of the ‘journey’ as a subject of art. The festival features projects that approach this centuries old preoccupation from new and surprising angles: works that chart global surges in civil unrest; re-trace epic pilgrimages; explore the passage of time; map out unwritten histories; and chronicle journeys of self-discovery that look inward rather than out at the world.”

Alongside the reveal of the 2023 programme, the festival also announced artists Alice Mann and Carlos Idun-Tawiah as joint winners of its annual Spotlight Award.

Belfast Photo Festival director Michael Weir says: “A huge congratulations to Alice Mann and Carlos Idun-Tawiah, winners of the Spotlight Award, and to all those who have been selected by our expert panel of judges following this year's Open Submission. The number of entries was unprecedented, with submissions from around the world representing a standard that is as high as it has ever been and reinforcing our place within the international artistic community.”

This year’s jury consisted of representatives from TATE Modern; V&A; Webber, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Singapore International Photography Festival; Aperture Magazine; The New York Times; New Museum, Manhattan; and New York’s International Center of Photography.

He continues: “As an organisation we are always seeking works from new, emerging and established artists alike that give pause for thought, challenge convention – both in subject matter and in photographic practice – and offer a fresh perspective. As such we’re proud to continue our support for photographers through our Open Submission programme and Spotlight Award.”

Mann’s project Drummies and Idun-Tawiah’s Boys Will Always Be Boys are part of the group exhibition A Right of Passage which will be on display in Botanic Gardens throughout the festival.

Mann’s project depicts the unique and aspirational subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, affectionately known as ‘Drummies’. The sport, which has a long history in South Africa, became popular across the country in the early 80s, but participation has since dropped dramatically. Drummies is part of the artist’s ongoing work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society. Her aim is for the series to function as a testament to the commitment and determination of young female athletes in a world where so many sporting opportunities are still focused on men.

Carlos Idun-Tawiah’s ongoing photo series Boys Will Always Be Boys is “a requiem of my childhood friendships and that of many people who grew up in very communal environments.” He comments on how, as years passed, he became “less invested in friendships” and “lost touch with so many activities and friends”. The series, which the artist says will probably keep going as long as he lives, explores the nuances of how time and age change the dynamic of friendships and leisure.

Among this year’s other highlights is a career-spanning retrospective of work from acclaimed photojournalist Alain Le Garsmeur, presented in partnership with Belfast Exposed. Le Garsmeur is renowned for his work for The Times and The Observer documenting dangerous and surreal nature of everyday life in the 1970s and 80s during The Troubles.

In April, the festival and Ulster Museum marked the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in a new co-curated exhibition that captures the often untold stories of the women who were influential to peace building in Northern Ireland.

Principled and Revolutionary: Northern Ireland’s Peace Women is a new series of works from Belfast-born photographer Hannah Starkey that pays tribute to women’s social and political work. The project consists of a series of portraits of prominent women who helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. Peace activist and former politician Monica McWilliams - who co-founded the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and was a delegate to the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations – is one of the subjects of the portraits, as are other renowned activists and peace campaigners such as Bronagh Hinds and Sandra Peake.

Other highlights include Fulu Act by Belgian artist Colin Delfosse, a project that document how artists on the streets of the Kinshasa raise awareness among citizens about the challenges the Congolese capital city is facing; The Last Frontier by Lorraine Turci explores what is at stake in the relationship between human beings and the planet as Antarctica becomes a commodity and destination of choice for wealthy tourists; A Myth of Two Souls by Vasantha Yogananthan retraces the legendary route from Nepal to India to Sri Lanka in a modern retelling of The Ramayana, an epic tale first recorded by Sanskrit poet Valmiki around 300 BC; and La Espera – The Wait by Jordi Ruiz Cirera, a series that documents the realities of migrants, refugees and deportees across Mexico, highlighting the temporality of their situations.

Belfast Photo Festival is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and Alexander Boyd Displays.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit

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