Belfast Exposed Excellence in Training Award

We are delighted to announce the first recipient of the Belfast Exposed Excellence in Training award to Michael Ryan. The award will grant the recipient six weeks of three 1-hour sessions with one of our course tutors and top photographers in Northern Ireland, Christopher Barr. The award also provides support for materials, and one–to-one support in writing funding applications to continue with their work.

Michael has trained with Belfast Exposed for years and in that time has grown as a photographer and artist. His unique approach to using low tech instant photography interlinked with personal experiences, has made him the stand out trainee for 2020. All the work Michael produces will be in the lockdown period and we look forward to seeing the fruits of his labour.

Deirdre Robb, CEO, Belfast Exposed

© Michael Ryan

On receiving the award, Michael shared his gratitude, his experiences with Belfast Exposed, and his ambitions as an artist:

I discovered Belfast Exposed by accident. I was studying for an HND in Photography and a group of us students decided to visit some of the galleries in Belfast city centre. I picked up a leaflet with their website and found out about their courses.

It may seem strange to start at beginner’s level when I had higher certificates in the subject already, but I am glad I did. I learned new things on the courses at Belfast Exposed that were never covered in the high-level courses. It might be because the tutors are professional photographers rather than professional teachers. We had deep conversations on all aspects of photography and the art that influenced the tutors. I feel I missed out on that in my academic studies.

I have met a wide variety of people, artists, photographers, whatever, at Belfast Exposed. It is the place for meeting people with experience and knowledge of not only how to take a photograph but also the life of art itself. If I was starting a career in visual arts this would be the place to make useful contacts and advice on where to go next.

© Michael Ryan

For a bookworm like me, the bookshop at Belfast Exposed is paradise. They have unusual, local and self-published books on photography that I cannot find anywhere else. If there is an exhibition at the gallery you will find the book of it there.

The exhibitions at Belfast Exposed have introduced me to interesting photographs and photographers. I have learned from the knowledge and experience of photographers and artists during the talks held at the gallery. I have had fascinating conversations with people I would not have discovered through the academic route at Belfast Exposed and I look forward to continuing that relationship into the far future.

I was surprised and grateful to receive the Belfast Exposed Excellence in Training Award. I was surprised because I do not normally win anything of such importance and grateful because it will greatly benefit me as a photographer and artist. It will allow me to improve my practice in photography and art, and it is a step towards other opportunities in the future.

© Michael Ryan

I feel that the mentoring I have received from Chris Barr as part of this award has improved my knowledge, skills and practise as an artist and photographer. Chris has expanded my vision of what can be achieved with cameras and has encouraged me to experiment and innovate in my art and photography work. Recently I have been experimenting with instant photography and self-portrait performance.  It has also distracted me from the crisis that is happening at present and helped me cope with isolation and my vulnerability as a person with mental health issues. Chris has been helping me to understand how projects develop into photobooks and exhibitions.

I work with legacy media such as 35mm film and the bursary that is part of the award will allow me to get this developed and printed once isolation is over. I plan on investing in my other favourite speciality of Lomography cameras and materials such as instant film. I will use these to invent new visual images that will be included in a photobook and exhibition. I hope that the skills and material help I receive from this award will assist me in achieving my ambitions and dreams as an artist.

© Michael Ryan