Belfast Exposed worked alongside a group of participants on a project called ‘Seamus Heaney Homeland’, which was funded by Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Halifax Foundation of Northern Ireland. The therapeutic photography project was inspired by the poetry of Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet who received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Belfast Exposed has a strong history with Seamus Heaney, as he opened the ‘Belfast Exposed’ exhibition at the Bank of Ireland Gallery in Baggot Street, Dublin, and remarked on the “powerful, democratic feel running through these photographs”.
“The project was a real tonic for me, it is unbelievable what the project offered me learning about Seamus Heaney and bringing the poems to life through photography taking me out of my depression, I am so happy to have taken part.” – Noel (project participant).
Participants in the project visually captured the homeland of Heaney, by following the route of the 110 bus which inspired Heaney, specifically the journey between Toome and Castledawson, while looking at ten poems Heaney wrote on his homeland that was so close to his heart. The poems of Seamus Heaney and the images captured by the participants brought people together to challenge attitudes towards mental health and raise a greater public awareness and understanding of these issues, seeking to offer inclusion and an accessible art form to all participants.
The aim of the project was for the participants to learn technical photography skills and to work together using photography as a medium, to start a dialogue contributing to positive well-being, and to inform and give an understanding of their mental health issues which have effects on all family members and create a sense of pride. Through this project, participants are removed from isolation, offering a distraction from any negative thoughts and feelings, gaining confidence and raising self-esteem, by using creative photography as a therapeutic art process.
Participants’ mental health and wellbeing was improved through a series of therapeutic photography workshops offering technical camera skills, creative composition skills and post-production skills. Therapeutic photography involves taking, analysing and reflecting on photographs for the purpose of personal healing, growth, or understanding, whether done consciously or subconsciously. Participants also gained an understanding of the work of Seamus Heaney and how he used poetry as an expressive art form to interpret the world around him, and participants took inspiration from his poetry and reflected this in the photographs they produced.
Mental Health & Well-being Programme
Belfast Exposed’s ‘Mental Health & Well-being Programme’ is designed to support mental health and well-being of people across Northern Ireland, through the provision of Belfast Exposed’s therapeutic photography programme as an alternative method of support for their needs, and an alternative therapeutic approach to betterment. The programme involves taking, analysing and reflecting on photographs for the purpose of personal healing, growth and understanding, whether done consciously or subconsciously, in a supervised environment with Belfast Exposed trained staff.
How You Can Get Involved
Belfast Exposed would love for you to get involved! If you are an individual, or a community or school group, and would like to get involved in Belfast Exposed’s community engagement programmes, please contact Mervyn Smyth at firstname.lastname@example.org.