Who's Been Framed At The Ulster Hall?

Photographer Carrie Davenport and the Skyway Club embrace a noir aesthetic for their photographic mystery

With twists, dames, and slugs aplenty, the Who’s Been Framed? exhibition by the Skyway Club has transformed the Ulster Hall’s gallery space into a hardboiled Havana dripping in 1920s noir style.

Taking inspiration from classic crime flicks such as Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, as well as the much loved board game Cluedo, the exhibition displays a series of evocative stills from a staged murder scene.

The viewer is invited to not only enjoy the fabulous fashion and heat-packin’ private eyes on show, but to actively join in with the mystery – a series of clues buried within the shots can be pieced together in order to solve the crime.

First shown at Culture Night 2011, Who’s Been Framed? was shot by Belfast-based photographer Carrie Davenport in conjunction with the Skyway Club – a collective of adults with learning disabilities. Catching up with her before the grand opening, Davenport gave the scoop on how it all came to fruition.

 

'I’ve been working with the Skyway Club for a while now,' she explains. 'All the guys you can see in the pictures were on a photography course that I was teaching. However, they were keen to get on the other side of the camera and we wanted to give them a chance to model.'

After some thought, club assistant Matthew Lee came up with the murder mystery idea, along with input from the group. 'Downton Abbey had just come out at the time,' recalls Lee. 'The club members really loved that theme, and from there we developed the murder mystery idea along with a few characters.

'We’ve been remaking classic films like Gone With The Wind for quite a while now and it’s been a huge success (Skyway club won awards at a recent film festival in Amsterdam and are also involved with the Oscar Bright Festival in Brighton) but this is the first photography project we’ve done and I think it works really well.'

The effect is impressive, with the whole exhibition oozing class. Gold frames hand-crafted by the Townhouse Gallery surround the various images and suitably art-deco captions describe the crime scenes, titles including 'Belinda Plush: A Silent Witness' and 'Tony McGuffin: What’s Your Poison'.

At the opening night, the ambience is suitably period, with 1920s music playing in the background and fancy dress encouraged.

With a series of exhibitions now under her belt, as well as solid connections within the Northern Irish music scene (being a rock photographer of some repute), Davenport is nothing if not eclectic. She even brings a vérité style to her highly unique wedding photographs. Despite this, she counts her work with the Skyway Club among the most rewarding she has taken part in.

'Normally people are terrified of being photographed, but it was great getting these guys on the other side of the camera – they just have no fear. 

'We spent a whole day doing the shoot at the Culloden Hotel, who were great to us. We got people to do hair and makeup and had a load of different costumes. Over 200 people came down to see it on Culture Night, so the response has been brilliant so far.'

Lee partly funded the exhibition by completing a charity cycle around the Antrim Coast last year. Now he is going the extra mile (or few thousand miles) by cycling across America to raise even more money for the club’s next project. They're not quite sure what it's going to be, but rest assured it will be stylish.

Who’s Been Framed? is on display in the Ulster Hall until July 30.