«We’ve worked with Night on a project called North – about northern identity in the UK» conveys Sarah Fisher, Executive Director of the gallery established in 1977
Open Eye Gallery on the Liverpool Waterfront
Originally starting back in 1977, it is no surprise that the gallery has gained a well-established name for itself within the photography industry. «The gallery is situated in an area which attracts a lot of people from the region and internationally». Based in a modern building nestled alongside some of Liverpool’s historical buildings. Initially the gallery was set up with government support, during a time period where shipping in Liverpool was scaling down. The gallery itself has a history across various venues spread over Liverpool. «Being in operation for over forty years is a testament to the directors and the power of photography itself» conveys Sarah Fisher, Executive Director of Open Eye Gallery. Preliminarily being a venue where people could learn new skills, the gallery has come a long way over the years. «During our initial years of opening, video was starting to be accessible and we had access to dark rooms». Interested in cohering culture, the gallery works with over seventy-eight partners. From the fashion industry to sustainable matters and happenings within local communities, Open Eye don’t limit themselves to a singular topic. «We recently worked with Nick Night studio to collaborate on a project called North. The collaboration was all about northern identity in the United Kingdom, through things found in everyone’s daily lives, such as fashion, photography and technology. The exhibition itself was contributing to the ways in which we look at the north of England and how has this come from the history of photography which was largely made up of famous photographers based in the south of England. We wanted to capture a hackney perspective, which is why we focused our imagery in that direction».
Open Eye rethinking what a gallery can be
Always on the search for new voices the gallery often finds that these new voices come from within local communities. Working with socially engaged photographers. «Socially engaged photography for us is about photographers really listening to the wants and needs of communities and collectively bringing their expertise alongside the life experiences many people have to produce work. This is an indication of what we do as a gallery. We have a gallery space but the majority of what we do doesn’t happen in the gallery. We exhibit in venues across the world as well as within local communities». The gallery has a wide variety of up-and-coming events including their Return to Nature project which involves local communities across Wiggin. «This is an exhibition that will take place in three different outdoor venues. We are looking at our relationship with nature which in turn coincides with the climate change agenda as well as the health and well-being schema». The two photographers behind the exhibition are Mario Poppin and Joe Ropper. As part of the project, the gallery is also working with the local college, to involve young and aspiring photographers who have investigated their own local parks within their communities who will display their findings. «We have captured the essence of communities connecting to the nature around them through activities such as varied exercises, being out in the fresh air, which has been pivotal during the coronavirus pandemic. Or we have people who connect to nature through their adoration for the local park, individuals who volunteer to upkeep the land local to them».
Exhibition through photography at Open eye
Open Eye are proving that any individual has what it takes to get involved in a topic that deems to be overlooked. By providing exhibitions as well as photography, they are allowing citizens to learn about difficult subjects that are pivotal in everyone’s daily lives. «The communities we have worked with tend to be excited because of how we showcase matters in a variety of creative and informative ways. As part of the exhibition, we have banners of people interacting with their local communities hanging in between trees».
«We are working with climate within a number of themes. For example, there is transport, energy, food, nature and materials. We have photographers working in residence with a scientific lab called Energy House. They have taken a typical northern terrace house, taken it down to rebuild it within a scientific laboratory using exactly the same materials. The experiment involves all weather conditions, and the aim is to test all of the materials they have which we all think about when looking for ways to save money on our energy bills and insulation». The photographers have found ways to display the exhibition through photography whilst giving the public a full in-person experience by developing a brochure with text about great ways of saving energy whether you have got money or not.
Open eye gallery partnership with NHS
The gallery has had a long-term partnership with the NHS and specifically the head for the NHS in their city region, Doctor Sarah Butchard. «She is one of the leading doctors who specialises in dementia and has done a lot of work with people who are in the early stages of dementia. We have collectively worked together to erase the stigma around the illness and people’s initial images of lonely and sad individuals who have dementia. We worked with an amazing group of people with early signs of dementia, where one of the individuals used to run the Accident and Emergency department in Liverpool hospital». Working with them over a period of nine months to a year, the open eye gallery was able to allow the individuals to express their story. The open eye gallery welcomes the opportunity to study with them. Presenting a degree with UCEN Manchester in photography and social practice. Graduates will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts with Honors, whilst gaining invaluable experience within the arts sector and industry photographic practice. A key aim is to «enable students from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to have a nationally recognised training programme based in the North West of England that will provide photographers for both regional and national market places».
The Open Eye Gallery
19 Mann Island, Liverpool L3 1BP, United Kingdom
Open Eye Gallery is a photography gallery and archive in Liverpool, UK that was established in 1977. It is housed in a purpose-built building on the waterfront at Mann Island, its fourth location.