PRIVATE PICTURES - PUBLIC CONVENTIONS
In March 2005 Belfast Exposed exhibited work by Jo Spence entitled 'Beyond The Family Album And Other Projects'. The show concentrated mainly on Spence's critical, and accessible, work on family album and amateur/popular photography. Spence emphasised the need for an alternative kind of family photography that would break with the limiting conventions of popular photography to portray a more realistic representation of family life. She analysed her own family album in an incisive and witty way - criticising how photographs, of her early life especially, tended to focus only on a narrow set of 'positive' events. She had very few photographs of her parents' lives and felt that the photographs of her own didn't truly represent her life's experiences. She set about photographing 'performed' moments from her remembered past and intensively documenting her daily life until her death in 1992. The texts that accompanied the exhibition, and new commissioned writings, are included here. References to work by others on the subject are also noted.
During the run of the Jo Spence show, a project entitled 'Portraits From A 50s Archive' was developed with a group of senior citizens who lived in Belfast during the 'Post-War, Pre-Troubles' period, between 1945 and 1968. A series of workshops was held in the gallery amidst the Spence exhibition in March and April and Spence's ideas about amateur and family photography were discussed in detail. The experimental pinhole images produced by Peter Richards were directed by the participants in response to discussions on Spence's ideas and in relation to their own family album material. Some images evidently attempt to address gaps in the representation of their personal histories, other images are more conventional. The new pinhole photographs were exhibited alongside selected album photos from the 1950s and 60s in the gallery through June and July 2005 and were published in a catalogue. Interviews conducted by Ruth Graham with group participants are available here also.
Belfast Exposed would like to thank Davy Barrett, David Bate, Kevin Bean, Sheila Burns, Paddy Cassidy, Bobby Cosgrove, Terry Dennett, Lynda Edwards, Marianne Elliott, David Evans, Ruth Graham, Sumi Kal, Teresa Lindsay, Pearse McKenna, Margaret and Raymond Prentice, Doreen Quinn, Theresa Rafferty, Peter Richards, Alison Rowley and Liam O'Ruairc