posted on May 17th, 2019

Festival tackles role of photography in the era of fake news


Pictured (L-R) launching the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival are Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival Director.

Northern Ireland’s premier month-long visual arts festival, the Belfast Photo Festival, will take over art galleries and dominate outdoors spaces throughout Belfast this June with experiential and engaging exhibitions exploring the role of photography in the era of post-truth, alternative facts and fake news.

The photography festival, which presents some of the finest national and international contemporary photography, runs from Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 June. Under the theme of “Truth and Lies”, the festival will look at how photography can be used to influence opinion; from carefully choreographed photoshoots to image manipulation and misrepresentation.

“The camera never lies,” the age-old saying goes, but increasingly consumers are having to be ever-more diligent in distinguishing fact from fiction – and photography has a crucial role to play in the era where billions of new images are captured daily and content is consumed at a staggering rate.

Jump Trump by Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender.

Among this year’s highlights is Jump Trump, the interactive exhibition by Dutch photographers Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, which will be on display for the first time in the UK and Ireland. Exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery, the installation sees the gallery space dominated by a one-metre deep inflated crash mat emblazoned with an image of the 45th President of the United States. Complete with a raised platform for daring visitors to jump onto the mat, it challenges audiences to get up close to the politician’s face and express their feelings toward the influential and often controversial figure.

Jump Trump forms part of a larger exhibition, Do Governments Lie?, at the gallery. Other works include Philippe Chancel’s Kim Happiness, a series of photographs taken in North Korea exploring the management of happiness by the country’s government, and Marc Lee’s video installation which trawls social media in real time and seamlessly weaves tweets, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads by political parties and their election candidates into a dystopian live television show.

From Kim Happiness by Philippe Chancel.

Controlled Perspectives at the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich presents works by Korean artists Seung Woo BackHeesung Chung and Yeondoo Jung as they demonstrate how photography can be used to control perspective using constructed environments.

ICONS, by artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger, displayed on the lawn at Belfast City Hall, shows images of meticulous three-dimensional models constructed to create astonishingly realistic reconstructions of some of the most recognisable images in history, including Tank Man, the striking image of the unknown protestor who stood in front of a convoy of Chinese military tanks on Tiananmen Square, Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier, The Hindenburg Disaster and more.

Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who rose to international acclaim as the photographer behind fashion brand Benetton’s controversial advertising campaigns that pushed the limits of the industry, will host a talk and Q&A at the Ulster Museum on June 13.

At Belfast Exposed, Margins of Excess by Max Pinckers, who is listed among the ranks of Magnum Photos, presents a body of work looking at the role of mass media in communicating idiosyncratic versions of six individuals’ own reality who momentarily were subject to nationwide media attention and scrutiny in the US.

Guests pictured with Donald Trump impersonator at the launch of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland-backed festival works to make visual art more accessible, explains Festival Director Michael Weir. “We’re introducing it to public spaces and expanding our outdoor presence while making the artform interactive and engaging. Among the exhibitions that will take over these spaces, as well as those hosted in our partner galleries and venues, are significant bodies of work hand-picked for Belfast Photo Festival by representatives from global institutions such as Tate Modern, the New York-based Aperture Magazine and Magnum Photos; the agency behind some of the most striking and influential photographs of 20th century.”

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland proudly supports the Belfast Photo Festival which celebrates some of the finest local, national and international photography around.  It’s extensive, impressive programme encourages active engagement with this popular art form whether that’s through attending exhibitions, taking part in workshops or through public displays and I would encourage everyone to get involved.”

As well as its extensive programme showcasing globally renowned names, including multi-national media and broadcasting company VICE, the festival will exhibit works from lesser-known artists through its Open Submission programme which attracted almost 32,000 entries from 83 countries.

Michael said: “Our Open Submission proved hugely successful this year and demonstrates just influential and well-recognised Belfast Photo Festival is on the international stage; established and challenger artists are eager to exhibit on our shores.”

The winner of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival Open Submission will be revealed in June at the opening ceremony on Thursday 6th June.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up-to-date on social media via FacebookTwitter and Instagram.