Visual Arts

Picture This: Belfast Photo Festival

Sensory Deprivation – © Juno Calypso 2016

Belfast Photo Festival returns to the Northern Irish capital for the month of June. The main theme for this year’s biennial is Sexuality & Gender, with eleven exhibitions taking place across Belfast discussing this topic. As well as the festival’s main brief a number of exhibitions discussing other subjects are integrated within the programme along with a host of talks, workshops and events.

With the current social and political environments that exist on this island, and further a field, a look at the role of gender in society, and specifically the ability of the camera to document and discuss this important discourse, has never felt so relevant and vital. It’s been two years since ROI passed a bill approving same sex union by popular vote, with NI remaining the only country in the British Isles to to not have some form of legislation – progress has been made but we still have a long journey to go in both nations. Through the works of photographers like Goldin and Avedon, Testino and Bourdin, photography has consitently challenged preconceptions regarding gender and sexuality, providing an accessible platform and a visual identity to a discourse necessary to debate and drive social and political change. Some of these key figures, including Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as established international artists, including Vivian Sasson, have their work displayed in Belfast Photo Festival alongside a mixture of local and national artists, including Megan Doherty – a Northern Irish photographer who has recently shot projects for New York Magazine and VICE.

Janet, Lindiwe and Dodo, Eytys Delicious – © Kristen Lee Moolman 2015

The festival continues until the end of June, with some shows finishing slighty before that and others extending into July. Below is a selection of whats on store, with a full list of exhibitions available here.

Main Theme

  • BIBLE @  Framewerk from June 23rd until July 22nd: Momo Okabe, the first Japanese photographer to receive FOAM’s Paul Huf award, showcases her stunning series BIBLE which documents two transgender lovers on the journey through change. This fascinating and beautiful series is not to be missed – full details here.
  • Fashion: Blurred Lines A Matter of Attitude @ Ulster Museum until June 30th: A look at some of the most influential fashion photography, featuring the work of Bruce Weber, Jack Pierson and many more – full details here.
  • Dazed & Confused @ Writer’s Square until June 26th: Exploring the archives of the seminal London based magazine, which since 1991 has been home to some of the most expressive fashion photography around – full details here.
  • The Honeymoon Suite @ Golden Thread Gallery until July 22nd: Photographer Juno Calypso takes on the persona of Joyce as she explores the honeymoon suites of hotels in this exhibition of intimate self portraits – full details here.

Off Theme

  • I Was Here @ St.Anne’s Square until June 30th: Featuring the work of five photographers, and selected by a panel featuring representatives from, among others, MoMA, MACK, British Journal of Photography and FOAM, this exhibition looks at the ambiguity offered up by portraiture – full details here.
  • Poor Land @ St. Anne’s Square until June 30th: Five artists look at land’s that have become unsustainable for their inhabitants be that from overproduction of war, the work was selected by, among others, Magnum Photos, The New York Times and Belfast Exposed – full details here.
  • Photo-Book Libary & Unseen Dummy Book Award @ Writer’s Square until June 30th: These two exhibitions present a vast and immersive array pf photobooks, with the former featuring, photo-books, zines, magazines and artist book dummies from around the world and the latter the 5th edition of the Unseen Dummy Book Award – a must see for any photobook enthusiast.
  • The Royal Photographic Society @ Titanic Belfast until July 1st: The 159th Edition of the world’s longest running photographic annual. This year was also the first where all four medals were awarded to female photographers – full details available here.


  • A list of the festival’s Talks can be found here.
  • A list of Tours can be found here.

Belfast Photo Festival continues until June 30th.

Bible – © Momo Okabe

is the Arts Editor for The Thin Air. He's also a coffee fiend, architecture enthusiast and general messer.