Originally from Galway, Ailbhe is one of the founding members of the BA(Hons) Photography & Video Degree (2007) and MFA Photography Degree (Campus 2010/ E-Learning 2015) at Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art. She is Course Director of the BA (Hons) Photography with Video Programme, having being MFA Photography Director from 2013-2017.
A BA(Hons) Communications Graduate from Dublin City University, Ailbhe also holds an MFA with Distinction from the School of Visual Arts New York, where she graduated as a Fulbright and Aaron Siskind Memorial Scholar. She is the recipient of the:
- SVA MFA Chairman's Award 2000-2003
- Arts Council Visual Arts Bursary 2006
- Arts Council Travel Award 2012
- Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris Residency Award 2014
- Society for Photographic Education International Conference Grant Award 2017 (with her paper ranking highest out of 247 proposals received by a 10-member peer review panel)
Ailbhe forms part of the world-leading (REF 2014) Photography discipline at UU and was submitted for REF 2022. Her practice, writing and research has been exhibited and published both nationally and internationally; contextualized within institutions such as:
- Aperture Foundation New York (one of 50 pieces, out of over 700 international submissions selected, as part of Photography Is Magic curated by Charlotte Cotton),
- CCI Paris
- EVA International
- Fast Forward Women In Photography (one of 15 speakers from over 250 international submissions)
- Format Festival
- Golden Thread Gallery Belfast
- Tate Modern
Her work is held in the collections of the School of Visual Arts New York and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
A Board Member for the Young at Art Festival and a BIG IDEA Mentor, Ailbhe is also External Examiner at Falmouth University and MTU’s Crawford College of Art. A fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Ulster University Art & Design Research Institute (RIAD), Ailbhe is an incoming PhD supervisor and sits on the Ulster University Art and Design Ethics Filter Committee.
She has been an expert panel reviewer for the Fulbright Commission of Ireland Student/Scholar Award since 2013. In 2016 she was appointed the inaugural Fulbright Ireland Ambassador for Ulster University.
Prior to her appointment at UU Ailbhe worked in New York as:
- Curatorial Intern under Jennifer Blessing at the Guggenheim Museum
- Editorial Assistant at Blind Spot Magazine
- Advanced Digital Imaging Artist with Lux Imaging
- Gallery Assistant + Print Manager (Voluntary)
- Here Is New York Exhibition, 116 Prince St
- Digital Output Centre Manager
- School of Visual Arts and Graduate Teaching Assistant
- MFA Photography Dept
- School of Visual Arts, under the mentorship of Sarah Charlesworth, Anna Gaskell, Collier Schorr, Stephen Shore, Charles Traub and Randy West
Ailbhe’s research focuses on Photography, Migration and the Marginal and she is currently leading a research project entitled ‘Photography, Empathy and The Young’, in collaboration with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUIG.
As part of PhotoIreland 2022 she will convene the Think Tank: Photography: An Empathetic Gesture? Her solo exhibition at the Golden Thread Gallery will run from July – September 2022 and her work will be featured as part of the CCI 20-year anniversary programme for Paris Photo 2022, alongside Martin Parr.
In addition to this Ailbhe is co curating a special photography exhibition with CCI Directrice Nora Hickey Hickey M'Sichili, featuring four female Ulster University Photography graduates whose work exemplifies a challenge to the language of photography and represents a ‘young’ response to, and an unfixing of, place within an Irish context.