festival

Belfast Photo Festival by Savannah Dodd

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Summer in Belfast is often short-lived, but it's absolutely glorious while it lasts. Last week was been the best weather I've seen in Belfast yet. It's been hot - even by my estimation as a St. Louisian who religiously believes in 35 degree heat, quick dry fabrics, and swimming pools.

A funny thing happens in Belfast when the sun comes out. When it's just 14 degrees, if the suns out, half of Belfast's men misplace their shirts. Yet, contrastingly, when temperatures break 20, there is a huge proportion of people who are not sure how to dress in the heat. Last weekend I saw a people jogging in hoodies, shopping in coats and hats, and going to work in sweaters. I think that maybe people don't trust the sun to stay out. Meanwhile, I embraced this glimpse of summer, pulling out all of the dresses I bought in Thailand and feared I'd never wear again.

This sunny weather gave me a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the Belfast Photo Festival! Not only has BPF set up a number of exhibitions around the city, but they have also organised events, workshops, talks, and (my personal favorite) an outdoor photobook library! We took advantage of the sunny weather to attend the Architectural Photo Walk through the city centre.

I'm not very well versed in architecture, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to learn a bit more about the city that I'm making my home. It was a really enjoyable afternoon, led by a guy who clearly knows the city inside and out. He was able to beautifully tie the history of Belfast to the buildings in a way that I would have never imagined.

One of the biggest take aways? Look up. The first floor (or second floor, for my American readers) often has more character and exposes more of the historical context than you will see if you keep your eyes at ground level.

Yangon Photo Festival by Savannah Dodd

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This year's Yangon Photo Festival was remarkable and inspiring in so many ways, but one of the most significant ways was that the exhibitions were presented in a public park without any censorship!

Last year Myanmar underwent a massive political shift when a civilian president was democratically elected for the first time in over fifty years. Aung Sun Suu Kyi, who could not legally run for the seat, was appointed State Counsellor of Myanmar following the presidential election of her proxy, Htin Kyaw.

Under the previous government, censorship was a major obstacle for events like this. Although there are still human rights concerns in Myanmar under Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the new government seems to uphold the freedom of speech, even when that speech highlights some of the ongoing problems in the country.

In addition to the exhibitions in Mahabandula Park, YPF hosted two public outdoor screenings of photo stories shot by local photographers. In previous years, censorship meant that screenings had to take place in private galleries. The public screenings greatly increased the potential impact of the images and were extremely well attended. 

The photo stories this year covered a number of social and political issues, including child labour, domestic violence, and internally displaced persons in Kachin State. Projecting these stories in a park offered a unique opportunity to raise awareness and to address these issues in a public space.

Aung San Suu Kyi showed her support for the photo festival's work by speaking at the awards night and sitting on the jury.