Julie Gibson

Snapping the architecture of County Down, Julie Gibson finds that photography is an eye-opening experience

Julie Gibson is a fair advertisement for photography as a family affair. With her young kids now getting out of the house, she has time to learn the art of composing creative images from the county Down landscape she loves.

'We started out with camera phones,' she says. 'Me and my son. But it got to the stage where you couldn't print them because the quality wasn't good. After that I went and got my first digital camera.'

The Architecture of Down in Downpatrick Library is Gibson's second public exhibition, following the 15-image collection Ulster's Water previously on display in Holywood.

The Shrigley Monument. Image (c) Julie Gibson PhotographyFocussing on buldings close to Ballygowan and Downpatrick, the exhibition grows from Gibson's exploration of her home county.

Like many photographers, picking up the camera allows her to take a fresh look at locations that her eye had grown accustomed to, or gives her reason to explore places she hadn't even been aware of.

'The likes of Inch Abbey,' she says, laughing at herself. 'I've lived here all my life and didn't even know it was there!

'We were driving down past the train station and heard that they did a run. I thought, I'll have to go take a wee look round.'

Two years since first lifting her prized Canon 400D, Gibson begins a photography course in September and aims then for a university degree. The desire to progress, however, doesn't stop with investing in a digital SLR.

'I'd like my own little gallery and studio,' she says. 'But that's a way down the line. It would either be in Downpatrick or in Belfast.

'Because I live in Ballygowan I'm lucky to have access to anywhere around. Even a wee country house that you could convert into a gallery and coffee shop.'

The effort and excitement in even the most modest display can be nerve-wracking, she says. With more prints and promotion, Downpatrick is billed as 'the big one.'

Ballycopeland Windmill. Photograph (c) Julie GibsonAs well as learning about editing software and techniques like HDR, Gibson is learning from the exhibition process. It is uncommon for an exhibition - in photography or other visual arts - for colour images to hang alongside black and white.

That's true of the oil paintings on display in Downpatrick before Gibson's own. Ships and sea scenes are rendered in full colour relief. The Architecture of Down includes only the most striking of Gibson's black and white prints.

'You vary your landscape and portrait images too,' she says. 'Things like this were all new to me, but it's a learning curve.

'My daughter now, she's ten and she's got the old camera. We'd be driving and she'd be shouting "mummy I've seen something, we have to go back!"

'It can be a solo thing but it's also good for the family. It's such a cliché, but photography really does open your eyes.' 

Kiran Acharya

Click here for further details on The Architecture of County Down..