Enriching people’s lives through photography
For over 40 years Belfast Exposed has led the way in challenging, shaping and bringing meaning to our culture and society. Through the power of photography, we have created a unique photo collection, capturing who we were, who we are and, in turn, what we can become. It serves us to ensure an inspiring, enduring legacy for today and beyond.
Starting out in dark troubled times, we have now grown into a force for creativity, challenging the status quo, and disruptively pushing boundaries. Our innovation has led to numerous achievements and awards, fuelling confidence and reinforcing the solid belief in what we do and what we can achieve.
We grow and support new talent through facilitating learning, showcasing exhibitions, whilst helping to champion our community. Through identifying meaningful and lasting partnerships and relationships, we create genuine, enduring value for artist progression, mental health, and the legacy of our people.
Art is at the heart of everything we do, shaping our dreams and aspirations; communicating universally from grassroots to boardrooms.
Our plans are bold, our strategies are focused and our values remain true.
Multi-award-winning Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's leading photography centre. We are a non-profit organisation based in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Founded in 1983, our mission is to enrich people's lives through photography by providing high-quality services for the public, businesses, schools & universities, health trusts, the arts and the community sector.
Belfast Exposed houses five public galleries, exhibiting world-class art that responds to contemporary currents in photography and politics, and is home to an archive of international significance serving as a catalyst for dialogue, reflection and storytelling.
Our Futures programme supports artists and curators early in their career by providing mentoring and exhibiting opportunities. We deliver a range of youth programmes for those interested in photography, encouraging the most disadvantaged to be connected, inspired, and achieve skills and qualifications for enjoyment and employment.
We have decades of experience delivering an extensive photography training programme to the public, enabling participants to learn and develop new skills and knowledge in photography.
We also operate a diverse, socially-engaged public programme specialising in mental health and wellbeing, supporting individuals and communities through our unique therapeutic photography programme.
Our corporate packages work directly with businesses to support their needs by delivering skills training, wellbeing workshops and providing a unique city-centre venue for a variety of events.
We believe photography is for everyone. Our work celebrates diversity and seeks to address inequalities through art. We're building new and deeper connections with the many partners we engage with, and the communities they represent.
In 1983, following the intense social unrest and trauma of the 1980-1981 Hunger Strikes, teacher, trade unionist and community activist Danny Burke brought together a collective of local photographers to initiate an exhibition of photography reflecting Belfast from the inside. The exhibition was called Belfast Exposed and initially comprised over 200 photographs and slides, documenting daily life in the city from a predominately working-class perspective.
Opening in October 1983 at Conway Mill - on the nationalist side of Belfast’s main ‘Peace Wall’ - the exhibition attracted interest from all over the city. It later moved to the Bank of Ireland Gallery in Dublin where Seamus Heaney remarked on the "powerful, democratic feel running through these photographs", which documented a common experience of unemployment, poor housing and economic deprivation, at once intensified by sectarian conflict and alleviated by the gritty humour of working-class Belfast.
Following the exhibition’s success, forging solidarities across Belfast's sectarian divide, Belfast Exposed – now a burgeoning visual arts organisation - represented the work of photographers from a range of backgrounds. All the while, recruiting a cross community steering committee and bringing exhibitions to venues in all areas of the city.
Over the following years, new photographic practices began to emerge in Northern Ireland, providing critical tools for documenting and reimagining a rapidly changing region. However, in many ways, the approach and aims of the original 1983 exhibitions have set the tone for our ethos from then until now. While community experience of conflict remains an important focus of our work, the ongoing challenge is to maintain its relevance for a new generation of audiences and photographers.
Since moving to the Cathedral Quarter in 2003, Belfast Exposed has engaged with tens of thousands of people every year: photographers, artists, activists, local communities, tourists, students, young people, and the general public. Each group has contributed to a substantial portfolio of exhibitions, publications and projects, often informed by questions that resonate with local experience: representation, identity, history, memory, commemoration and attachment to place.