Reciprocated Gaze: Belfast Exposed

I found myself with spare time before the bus commute home, so I popped over to Belfast Exposed, where I knew there was a exhibition of participants in its Stage 3 training photography courses.

Coincidentally, I discovered as I walked in that there was a session of portfolio reviews. About half a dozen tables on the ground floor, with artists showing their works to friendly critics. The gallery assistant welcomed me to carry on and inspect the Interactions exhibition on the surrounding walls. I did so, but felt like an interloper. (I didn’t eavesdrop, I promise.)

Perhaps because of the intense buzzing chatter around me, I wasn’t able to absorb the significance of the work in front of me. I knew about some of the artists, but nothing left an indelible impression.

I walked up the long flight of stairs to the upper floor, where I was greeted kindly by a member of staff (a marked contrast to my previous visit when I was told off for trying to reaffix a fallen magnet pin to an image).

Entitled Reciprocated Gaze, the work of nine artists were on display, described as a response to the Interactions exhibition down below.

It is an elevation.

The standard was very high, across the genres displayed.

There were two artists that stood out for me.

Both were triptyches, a set of three images in a row.

Judith Cole’s Mission Halls of Northern Ireland is a four-year project, to be published in a book of the same name this year. Here on display were three images of details inside a hall (or more) — collection baskets, seats, song books. They made me ponder the people who attend and worship.

Chrysoula Drakaki’s three images of Piraeus Port were taken on the same day, capturing three different social aspects of Greece. There is the expectant image of the aground ship (which evokes the tragedy and loss of life), complemented with tourists sitting at the stern of another one, and a street scene. The trilogy is superb.

And this got me thinking about a recent article that I read about the obsession of the perfect single image in a photographer’s project. I would use the word tyranny. Because if photography is about story telling, then unless you’ve either captured a photojournalistic moment or carefully staged a scene with requisite elements, then a short series of images can be just as powerful, if not more.

Both Interactions and Reciprocated Gaze exhibitions are on display at Belfast Exposed from 12 January – 18 February 2017.

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