Enriching people’s lives through photography
BOLD, FOCUSED, TRUE
For over 40 years Belfast Exposed has led the way, 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. 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.
Art is at the heart of everything we do, shaping our dreams and aspirations. Communicating universally from grassroots to boardrooms.
We are relentless in our ambitions to challenge the status quo. Disruptively pushing back frontiers. Growing and supporting new talent through facilitating learning, showcasing exhibitions, whilst helping to champion our community. Through identifying meaningful and lasting partnership opportunities we create genuine, enduring value for artist progression, mental health, businesses and legacy of our people.
Our plans bold, our strategies focused and our vision remains true.
Multi-award-winning Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's leading photography centre. We are a non-profit company 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.
Located in Belfast City Centre, Belfast Exposed houses four public galleries, exhibiting world-class art that responds to contemporary currents in photography and politics. We specialise in mental health and wellbeing, supporting individuals and communities through our unique ‘Viewpoint’ programme. Our business support packages work directly with businesses to meet their needs by delivering skills training, catering for staff wellbeing and providing a beautiful venue for events, launches and presentations. We operate a diverse, socially engaged public programme and are home to an archive of international significance serving as a catalyst for dialogue, reflection and storytelling.
Our Futures programme supports early career artists and curators by providing mentoring and exhibiting opportunities to aid career development. We deliver a photography academy for young people interested in photography, encouraging those most disadvantaged to be connected, inspired and achieve skills and qualifications for future employment. We have over 35 years of experience delivering an extensive photography training programme to the public, enabling participants to learn and develop new skills in photography for enjoyment, employability and career development.
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 the Belfast’s main ‘Peace Wall’ - the exhibition attracted interest from all over the city. It later moved to the Bank of Ireland Gallery, 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 and attempting to forge solidarities across Belfast's sectarian divide, Belfast Exposed – now a burgeoning visual arts organisation - represented the work of photographers from a range of backgrounds, 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 set the tone for our ethos from that day until the present.
While community experience of conflict remains an important focus of our work, the ongoing challenge is to keep this relevant and accessible for a new generation of audiences and photographers. Since moving to Cathedral Quarter in 2003, Belfast Exposed has engaged with thousands of people every year: photographers, artists, activists, local communities, tourists, students, school children 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.