Belfast Exposed


4th Jun - 29th Jun


Each year, Belfast Exposed proudly collaborates with Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art Photography Department to pr...

Read More
4th Jun - 27th Jul

Belfast Stitched

Leon Krige is a South African photographer and architect on a mission to capture the intricate urban landscapes of major cosm...

Read More


25th Sep - 7th Oct

Young People Behind the Lens

Over the summer, a group of young people from Start 360 explored the cityscape of Belfast. They found new ways to see the...

Read More
21st May - 22nd May

Showing the faces of dementia with Alzheimer’s NI

Ahead of the Alzheimer’s Society Annual Conference 2019 (ASAC19), Belfast Exposed was commissioned by Alzheimer’s NI to w...

Read More

Strangely Familiar

Gallery 2

4th Aug 2022 to 24th Sep 2022

About The Exhibition

Belfast Exposed is delighted to be hosting a new solo show from Samantha Johnston, an awardee of our Futures Artists programme.

Strangely Familiar is a collection of though-provoking work that explores the realm of cinema and its relationship with the still image. As the name suggests, Johnston combines familiar objects & settings with the strange and bizarre. The exhibition showcases Johnston's signature style in a series of evocative, powerful images, replete with rich colours and a combination of the mundane and mysterious.

In unfolding Johnston’s work, you are directed to the world of both of painting and photography. Indeed, Johnston trained as a fine art painter before moving to photography. Echoes of renaissance ripples in classical antiquity, combined with films of yesteryear. The images become super surrealist but not in a specific style. More a state of mind. The work aims to subvert reality by finding the uncanny in the everyday. To tap into our unconscious desires and bring dreams to life. And for Johnston, it has been a way to challenge the norm and imagine a new world.

'It is the moments spent in the darkroom that I really love, there is something very comforting about walking into a darkroom and seeing your enlarger and smelling the chemicals' - Samantha Johnston.

All Johnston’s work is shot in analogue and developed in her London studio. It is an idealisation of memories and melancholy, memorialised keepsakes normally akin to photographs and photo albums. It fits well with the realm of photography. The works are mainly colour, but do include black and white images as well. Johnston's self-processing of her film is a key part of her practice, as is the pace of the processing and hand printing work. Johnston operates in a meditative state of setting up a staged set. With everything intentioned from lighting right through to the placing of objects. After completing the shoot, it is straight to the darkroom to process the film. Johnston has described this rhythmic practice as akin to an 'obsession'. She can spend up to 8 hours a day in the dark room to perfect one print.

Cinema and theory create the base layer of the ideas behind the works. Johnston is drawn to the past, anything from 1940’s to 1970’s. There is a very strong theme of nostalgia and for Johnston, nostalgia wears a face that turns towards a future past. Whilst growing up in Belfast, she was and still is inspired by books. Gothic novels, short stories, Samuel Becket, Simon de Beauvoir and poetry. A huge movie lover as well, she is a a particular admirer of Hitchcock films, Wim Wenders, French Movies and Italian crime films. All are direct influences in the Strangely Familiar exhibition.

Common objects are strategically aligned and elevated in the mise-en-scène. Each image is a fictional fragment with inexplicable details that are suspended. There are no middles, no beginnings or endings, but a centre point of narratives that are embedded with consumption and desires. The installation of images provides a discourse on the relationship we have with objects. And create an encounter that arises comfortingly familiar scenes but yet stills feels unfamiliar to us.

This is truly a unique experience for viewers, the photographic works are both inviting and unnerving. There is a purity in her work coupled with a touch of the unexpected.

Strangely Familiar will be shown in Gallery II from Thursday 4th August to Saturday 24th September 2022.

'Samantha Johnston is a talented emerging artist whose hand coloured imaged are both inviting and unnerving. There is a purity in her work coupled with the a touch of the unexpected, giving viewers insight to a sense of film drama'.
Deirdre Robb, CEO Belfast Exposed

The Artists

Samantha Johnston

Artist Biography

Samantha Johnston is based in London and graduated with a MA Photography Arts from Westminster University, London in 2019 and previously a BA in Fine art with Ulster University, Belfast in 2013.

Samantha has exhibited widely including at the Chiang Mai Photo Festival, Parallel Worlds, Thailand, January 2020, Photofusion, Salon/19, London, December 2019, Unseen 2019 book fair, Amsterdam, September 2019, IAMMF, South Korea, August 2019 and Graduate Showcase Gallery West, London August 2019. She was the Highly Commended MA Photography graduate selected by Photograd 2019.


Artist Talk: Samantha Johnston

5th Aug 2022 | 1pm | Belfast Exposed - Gallery II



'Strangely Familiar' at Belfast Exposed is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.