The emerging artists behind, A Bigger Picture, group exhibition of work by feminist and queer photographic artists from the Belfast School of Art, share the personal stories behind their creations with Catriona Doherty.
A Bigger Picture, presented by Belfast Photo Festival and the Northern Irish Art Network, runs until July 9 at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.
A thematic concern of A Bigger Picture is that Northern Irish photography – particularly in relation to the Troubles – has been characterised as masculine and been dominated by male voices, and the implications of this on the voices of women and queer artists in photography. The exhibit ‘offers a countertext to the omissions in representation engendered by the dominant straight white male voice’.
The series features the creations of artists Aisling Kane, Maria Przybylska, Joanne Mullin, Richard Gosnold, Emma Campbell, Sarah Tehan, Shannon Ritchie, Gareth Sweeney, Sophie Riddell, Molly Martin, Ryan Allen, Shane O’Neill, Adela Puterkova, Evie Williamson and Charlie Beare.
Shannon Ritchie, creator of Burnt Out
“Burnt Out documents my refusal to accept tensions and casual violence in a place that should be comforting and safe.
“Through violent burning interventions in the images, I attempt to process my push-and-pull relationship with the council estate where I grew up and continue to live in Northern Ireland. Despite living here my whole life, I’m an outsider, failing to fit in with the sectarian attitudes and behaviour expected of me.
“I want the work to feel broken, dirty and imperfect in an ugly way. The use of an obsolete and broken camera with a sentimental value creates unpredictability and lack of control in the images, which mirrors the constant bombardment of political signs and acts of violence in the estate.
“The project weaves together themes of the love and hatred I feel towards my home, desensitisation to violent events, and most importantly, an anger about the politicised landscape and current tensions in Northern Ireland.”
Charlie Beare, creator of Man Enough
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the pressure to be ‘man enough’. Even writing the phrase feels exhausting. What does it even mean to be man enough? And man enough for what?
“I pulled myself apart for not being man enough; for being gay, for being trans, for having interests that aren’t typically viewed as masculine. All because society said that if I was going to be a man I had to tread extra carefully because I wasn’t born into the male world.
“Maybe I don’t want to be man enough. Maybe I just want to be the man that I am.
“Maybe, instead of asking ourselves if we are man enough, we should ask ourselves more important questions: Are we kind enough? Are we generous enough? Are we honest enough? Do we love ourselves and each other enough?
“I set out to explore my relationship to queer masculinity, photographing my body in nature as a way to show queerness as a natural state of being. I inhabited these spaces, focusing on my internal experience and how I demonstrate this to the outside world. These self-portraits are an honest look at my identity and a way for me to embrace my queerness.”
Molly Martin, creator of Misshapen States
“Misshapen States is a performance-based short film that pushes at, and experiments with, the sensed boundaries of the body and mind. From a personal perspective, I explored a detachment from the home we universally know best – the body and the self.
“Making the work involved durational performance actions in intense environmental situations to consciously induce states of involuntary movement, pushing my body to explore beyond its limits. These actions were a probe into the unconscious, unlived experiences occurring through my epileptic seizures. The encounters with placement allowed me to consider myself as just a body, an object, an obstacle.
“The work is my attempt to connect with the most intense experiences my body has had, while outside my conscious state. Setting myself in a place of intensity geographically, physically, and mentally, and performing with both my body and voice brings a physicality to something elusive in my embodied experience that I have not, and will not, ever reach or know, even though my body has.
“For me, there is nothing more elusive than not experiencing, knowing or relating to your own body. To feel a sense of home in any capacity can be to feel somewhat complete, but in this mind-body disconnect, I feel detached; far away from and always grasping for the home of the body and self.”
Gareth Sweeney, creator of FRUITS
“‘Fruit’ is a derogatory term in Ireland referring to queer persons. Fruit symbolizes youth, abundance and vitality.
“We choose who we share our lives with. FRUITS follow’s my chosen family between Derry and Belfast, and getting to the stage of life where groups tend to part their ways as other priorities appear. FRUITS showcases a need of grabbing onto fleeting moments and memories. Memories, be it, a night in bliss stumbling through the streets of Northern Ireland dressed to impress or a shared pot of tea after weeks of not seeing one another.
“I have always been interested in archives, specifically one's people keep for themselves. The idea of collecting something to spark a memory, evidence of life lived, has been something I have always done. With my anxieties increasing over the past few years, I began to fear that I would drift or fade from everyone close to me, this fear drove me to capture any moments we were able to be with each other. Using lo-fi techniques through analogue photography to create an unpolished form, I capture remnants between thought and feeling.”