The fascinating element of street art is that it is ever-changing. Existing pieces disappear while new work is produced. In Belfast, there is an annual street art festival, ‘Hit the North’, which is run by Seedhead Arts and attracts artists from around the globe. This ensures plenty of fresh paint and subject matter to photograph.
My name is David Kerr-McCullough and I am a Product Manager for Allstate Northern Ireland. Allstate is a US-based Fortune 500 insurance company and I work in the Claims Tech Solutions department. I manage a global team of software engineers located in Northern Ireland, India, and the United States.
After completing my degree, I was in the midst of job-hunting when I saw a flyer for Allstate Northern Ireland (then known as Northbrook Technology). It offered the opportunity for non-IT graduates to pursue a career in technology and I jumped at it.
While I have fulfilled several roles in my career to date, I have always gravitated towards the people side of technology. That encompasses the employee, user, and customer experience. In my current role as Product Manager, I get to influence all three.
Outside of work, my main passion is photography and capturing the world-class street art of Belfast, Northern Ireland. I have had a lifelong interest in art and creativity. I studied Art History at A-Level at school and always enjoyed exploring galleries.
After school, however, real-life caught up with me and other priorities took over. It was only during a lunchtime walk in Belfast in March 2019 that I noticed all the amazing artwork on the walls. I started taking photos of any I came across and posted a few of them on Instagram. They were getting a much stronger response than my other content, so I set up a dedicated street art account (@streetgallerybelfast) to showcase them. Since then, it has grown to over 3000 followers.
Beyond appreciating the incredible diversity of styles and talent, street art has helped me rediscover Belfast. Hunting down particular pieces has brought me back to what I consider some of the most beautiful parts of the city, such as the Cathedral Quarter and Smithfield & Union. Also, street art is ‘public art’ in the truest sense, and it is free for everyone.
Belfast has a wealth of talented local artists. JMK, DMC, KVLR, FRIZ, EMIC, VERZ, Visual Waste, Molloy, and Leo Boyd are all worth checking out. International talent is also represented in the city with mind-blowing murals by artists like Irony and Smug.
What I love the most about the street art in Belfast is all these colourful pieces of art brightening up the city. Some of them cover entire walls or sides of buildings, so the scale can be breath-taking. From a photography point of view, there are an infinite number of ways to approach them. You can take a close-up of a particular detail to highlight the artist’s technique or pull back to show the entire piece in the context of its environment.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that all my street art photographs have been taken with an old iPhone SE. As Henri Cartier-Bresson said, however, “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera … they are made with the eye, heart and head.”
When I started this project, my primary goal was to promote the art, the artists, and a vibrant aspect of Belfast that is often overlooked. I want to encourage people to explore the city and engage with the art for themselves. It is always a joy to see a shot that presents a piece of work in a way I hadn’t considered.
As I said previously, the nature of street art is that it is transient. Even since March 2019, some iconic pieces have fallen victim to redevelopment, demolition, or simply made way for new work. So, in addition to promoting it, I want to document the art so that others can enjoy it, even though it no longer exists in the real world.
Beyond continuing to build the Street Gallery Belfast Instagram account, I’d like to learn more about the technical aspects of photography in the future. I’d also like to expand the subject matter of my photography to include architecture, landscape, and abstract.
One of my pictures featured in a travel piece about Belfast in a May 2019 edition of Grazia Magazine, so it would be exciting to have more work published in the future.
I definitely see similarities between my Street Art Photography and my current occupation. I’m fortunate to work in an environment where creativity and experimentation are encouraged in product development. It’s the same with photography. I take multiple shots from multiple angles and see what works. Another parallel is the use of data and analytics. Instagram has some basic tools that provide useful insights, such as which photos drive the highest engagement, and the optimal time of day to post to capture the biggest audience. This feedback is invaluable in tailoring content to have the greatest impact.
Photography has been beneficial to my technological career by teaching me to look at problems in different ways and from different angles. It is important to be able to zoom in to examine the details of an issue, but also to zoom out to consider the wider context.
My advice to anyone interested in Street Art Photography is to just do it. With a Smartphone, you have everything you need in terms of a camera and basic editing software in your pocket. In terms of resources, Instagram is probably the best place to learn more about street art, with artists and ‘hunters’ regularly sharing their work from around the world. For a complete overview of street art in all its forms, I would highly recommend the book ‘Street Art’ by Simon Armstrong (Thames & Hudson).
If you’re interested in really learning more about street art, open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings. Artists are communicating with us from almost every surface in the urban environment (walls, shutters, utility boxes, lampposts, etc.) via mediums such as murals, stickers, and paste-ups. Art is literally everywhere if you look for it.
It is critical that technologists share their creative passions. There is always more than technology, but it is a great enabler. Above all else, it allows people to connect with each other and share ideas that could lead to ground-breaking advances, innovations, or products.
To follow Belfast Street Art on Instagram, be sure to check the following link: