New Wave 3: Belfast Photo Factory

On a rainy day before Christmas, and sounding a bit hoarse, I went to visit the Belfast Photo Factory. Zoe Hamill and Andrew Rankin were the only members present and Zoe showed me round the largely empty offices and shared gallery space that they occupied.

Apart from their unusually corporate-looking location (which they will soon leave) it was the similarity of their set-up to an artists' studio group that most struck me. Belfast, like many cities, has a number of artists' studios, such as Queen Street studios, but it is relatively unusual for photographers to form into collectives along similar lines. As Zoe explained, the benefits for them are partly about shared equipment but more significantly about sharing ideas and getting feedback. This is a continuation of their experience at university but also shows that they all see themselves as art photographers working toward gallery exhibitions, rather than making pictures for agencies, publishers or other traditional outlets for photographers.

A number of the members of Belfast Photo Factory have been successful, notably Alberto Maserin who was shortlisted for the Showcase award at the Gallery of Photography. They also did well to generate interest and submissions for their open submission exhibition last year. Longer term challenges will include finding a balance between the interests of the group and the careers of the individual members and finally, making links with other arts organisations (considering they are making art photography they have few links with other Belfast galleries). Considering how many photographers are coming out of universities with aspirations to exhibit their work we will undoubtedly be seeing many more collectives formed like the Belfast Photo Factory.

Source Issue 73 - The New Wave

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