Exhibitions

JOURNEY TO EDEN @ DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY

6 May - 12 May 2024

Events

MARRIAGE (IN)EQUALITY IN UKRAINE. Screening and a panel discussion

9 May 2024

Events

Casey Orr artist talk and SEPN North West meet-up

18 May 2024

Events

Poetry reading: Coast to Coast to Coast

11 May 2024

Exhibitions

National Pavilion of Ukraine @ Venice Biennale

20 April - 24 November 2024

Exhibitions

Open Source 28: Sam Patton – Room to Breathe @ Digital Window Gallery

10 April - 18 May 2024

Exhibitions

Forward, Together @ Wigan & Leigh Archives, Leigh Town Hall

23 March - 28 September 2024

Exhibitions

As She Likes It: Christine Beckett @ The Rainbow Tea Rooms, Chester

1 March - 30 June 2024

Exhibitions

Shifting Horizons @ Digital Window Gallery

27 March - 31 March 2024

PLATFORM: ISSUE 6

26 March 2024

Past Events

Saturday Town: Launch Event

10 April 2024

Exhibitions

Saturday Town

11 April - 18 May 2024

Past Events

PLATFORM: ZINE LAUNCH EVENT

21 March 2024

Home. Ukrainian Photography, UK Words: Tour

4 March - 28 February 2025

Exhibitions

Home: Ukrainian Photography, UK Words @ New Adelphi

4 March - 8 March 2024

Past Events

CREATIVE SOCIAL: IN THE ABSENCE OF FORMAL GROUND

2 March 2024

Exhibitions

We Feed The UK @ Exterior Walls

8 February - 31 March 2024

Past Events

Contrail Cirrus: the impact of aviation on climate change

7 March 2024

Exhibitions

Tree Story @ Liverpool ONE

16 February - 1 May 2024

Open Source #27: Saffron Lily – In The Absence of Formal Ground @ Digital Window Gallery

6 February - 31 March 2024

Past Events

Contemporary Photography from Ukraine: Symposium @University of Salford

4 March - 5 March 2024

Past Events

Is Anybody Listening? Symposium: Commissioning and Collecting Socially Engaged Photography

29 February 2024

Past Events

Different approaches: Artists working with scientists

15 February 2024

Past Events

LOOK Climate Lab 2024: All Events

18 January 2024

Exhibitions

Diesel & Dust @ Digital Window Gallery

18 January - 31 March 2024

Events

Tree Walks Of Sefton Park with Andrea Ku

21 January 2024

Past Events

Artists Remake the World by Vid Simoniti: Book Launch

31 January 2024

Past Events

Shift Liverpool Open Meeting

6 February 2024

Past Events

We Feed The UK Launch and LOOK Climate Lab 2024 Celebration

8 February 2024

Past Events

Cyanotype workshop with Melanie King

17 February 2024

Past Events

End of Empire: artist talk and discussion

22 February 2024

Past Events

Book Launch: What The Mine Gives, The Mine Takes

24 February 2024

Past Events

Local ecology in the post-industrial era: open discussion

14 March 2024

Past Events

Waterlands: creative writing workshop

23 March 2024

Past Events

Plant a seed. Seed sow and in conversation with Plot2Plate

16 March 2024

Past Events

Erosion: panel discussion

9 March 2024

Past Events

Waterlands: an evening of poetry and photographs

23 March 2024

Past Events

Force For Nature Exhibition

27 March - 28 March 2024

Voices of Nature: Interactive Performances

28 March 2024

Past Events

Sum of All Parts: Symposium

27 February 2024

Exhibitions Main Exhibition

LOOK Climate Lab 2024

18 January - 31 March 2024

Past Events

MA Socially engaged photography Open Day event

1 February 2023

Past Events

Tish: Special screening and Q&A

13 December 2023

Past Events

Book Launch: A Look At A New Perspective

23 November 2023

Past Events

Community workshops @ Ellesmere Port Library

6 November - 5 February 2024

Past Events

Book Launch: ‘544m’ By Kevin Crooks

30 November 2023

Past Exhibitions

Bernice Mulenga @ Open Eye Gallery Atrium Space

17 November - 17 December 2023

Past Events

Bernice Mulenga: Artist Talk

18 November 2023

Past Exhibitions

Local Roots @ The Atkinson

14 October 2023

Exhibitions

Community @ Ellesmere Port Library

26 October - 11 April 2024

Close
Close

A Spotlight On… Faye Héran

This month, Open Eye Gallery’s Creative Producer for schools and young people, Anna Wijnhoven, spoke with artist in residence Faye Héran about the collaboration between herself and Bootle based youth group, New Beginnings, about the Me, Myself, My SPACE project. 

Faye has a background in fashion and visual art, and has worked with a range of community and non-profit organisations within her scope of practice. Faye shares what has inspired her practice, what has gotten her here today and what legacy this project will leave behind for future generations of young LGBTQI+ & ally people. 

 

Anna Wijnhoven: Faye, you’ve had such a broad background of experiences, could you please describe them and how they’ve led to where you are today?

Faye Héran: Absolutely, I’ve almost come full cycle to be honest with you. I am currently living in Liverpool, which is the city I studied in. Whilst I was doing my degree, I took up photography very briefly, but I never really thought of it as something that I would go into professionally because my degree was very much a traditional course at the University of Liverpool. However, I randomly signed up to do an Art History module in my second year, which I loved as every lecture took place at a different museum or gallery exploring how traditional spaces install art and respond to changes in society. It sowed the seeds for my passion for visual art, and wanting to curate an exhibition in the future.

After I graduated, I moved back to London for 15 years and began what I like to call my ‘first career’ in event management, which was mainly at charities and not for profit organisations. I am very passionate about social issues and supporting causes, and through my role as an events producer had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects, including going to Bangladesh with Save the Children International, and arranging roundtables at The Guardian with their editors on different topics. Alongside that, I also became a fashion editor for an independent magazine, so my early career very much led me to a place where I became a multi disciplinary creative with experience in a mixture of things such as; producing projects and events, curating shoots, and going to London Fashion Week each season, where I developed an eye for fashion. This led me into ‘my second career’ in fashion styling and shooting for incredible publications such as Vogue Italia, Dazed and Hunger Magazine. I think having such a varied background installed me with the skills, knowledge and drive to try something different, and a constant need to question the world around me, and think about how my work can make a positive impact on society, which I feel we have achieved in this project.

Anna Wijnhoven: It seems like you’ve been incredibly busy over the past few months with your own evolving practice. With being commended in the Liverpool City Region Awards, and now working for us at Open Eye Gallery, as an artist in residence. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Faye Héran: After returning to Liverpool in 2019 and then struggling with the pandemic in 2020, I, like many other people, lost a lot of my work due to lockdown, due to the fact much of my work was in studios and working on set or on site. My mental health wasn’t doing very well as I was very isolated when the work wasn’t coming in, and I needed to find an outlet for my creativity. In essence to stay sane! I was also feeling extremely frustrated by the mixed messages coming from the government, so I started publishing my poetry and thoughts on Instagram, alongside photographs of my daily life in lockdown. I spent lockdown in London and Liverpool and I also went to France, when restrictions were relaxed to be with my family. So alongside that, I had a very varied understanding of what was going on, not only on an international scale, but also the difference between what was going on in the North and the South of England. I started wondering what I could do to capture this, so I began to covertly take self-portraits in everyday places like supermarkets or my local retail park.

I think I got so emotionally involved in what I was seeing around me, and I knew from working in fashion and publishing my work in magazines, that photographs have the power to tell stories that wider society can’t always access. So, I went for it. I eventually took a gamble and entered my Pandemic Portrait Project (2020 – 2021) into the Liverpool City Region Awards and was amazed when the series was commended. A portrait I shot at my local kebab shop in Wavertree, Down and Out at the Take Out (2021) was featured in the exhibition. It gave me confidence in my work, so when I saw this incredible opportunity to work with Open Eye Gallery as an artist in residence, I was struck by the fact that it fitted in so well with what I was doing with my self-portrait work whilst giving me the opportunity to work with young people, which has always been part of my events and voluntary work. During this time, I was actually in the midst of a schools project in London called Film Skool, teaching kids to make films, so it all felt like the right time, and luckily, you believed that too. 

Anna Wijnhoven: Looking at your self-portrait work. There’s a very clear story about identity, wellbeing and self acceptance. Can you tell us a bit more about how this fits into the project that you’ve recently completed with the New Beginnings youth group over at MYA SPACE? What lasting legacy do you think the project like this will leave behind?

Faye Héran: Having now finished this project, I can tell you that it has been the most phenomenal and inspiring project I have had the privilege of working on. Not just due to collaborating with the young people, but also with the staff who work in MYA SPACE, Open Eye Gallery and The Atkinson. They have all created a space and outlet for these young people in Bootle to make art, express themselves and voice so bravely what they feel about where they are in life right now. This freedom of expression very much fits into my practice.

I have very openly talked about my mental health in my art, and I am very proud of the fact that I get support consistently from a variety of local organisations, such as local women’s charity WHISC and the NHS, but this has happened for me later in life. I use photography, storytelling, opinion pieces, fashion and protest art to challenge the status quo, and also to make myself accessible to my audience. I want my art to resonate with everyone, from all walks of life.

I am hugely inspired by the fact that these young people are so open about their mental health, which took me a very long time to be able to do. So, in a way what we have produced is an open dialect, where we have documented our journey together. The young people involved in this project are not only grappling with their own mental health, but also being teenagers in a very challenging time and place, so it was important to me that we kept the workshops playful, and impulsive, and the art we created was almost like revealing the contents of your diary or posting your daily life on Instagram, in keeping with the practice I have developed in my work.

I feel the young people in this group are trailblazers, openly pushing boundaries at such a young age and discussing their journey without fear. Throughout this project, what they did was tell me, tell the local community, and tell the wider world that this is what we’re doing in this space. We’re talking about our mental health, we’re openly discussing LGBTQI+ & Ally issues, we’re openly playing with the colours of the Pride flag and playing around with music and art and photography, and just having fun being teenagers. MYA Space is a unique example of what can be achieved when communities are invested in. I think the legacy of the project will challenge people to say; it’s worth going into communities like this, giving funding to projects like this, as well as challenging the perception of what it means for young people to be involved in these types of projects. Hopefully it will also make galleries and museums think about how spaces are used to present community projects in arts, so that they’re accessible to everybody. 

For this project, we decided to include things like a guestbook, raw unedited Instagram reels, and a selfie booth for members of the public, so it was a very D.I.Y installation. I felt this fit my aesthetic as an artist, as well as being the best way to tell the stories of the young people in the group. I also hope it will leave a legacy for local councils and the government to say, we need to do more in communities, like Bootle, and push as much as possible to get community projects like this off the ground. It’s worth it. These young people are the future.

Anna Wijnhoven: This project was all about empowering LGBTQI+ & Ally young people to talk about identity through their photography and art. Can you tell us a bit more about how important you think this is?

Faye Héran: One of the ways that I think we were able to do this, was by showing everything that went on behind the scenes of this project. I used a lot of imagery from the weekly workshops, as I was keen to document everything. I think that was an important way to empower the group, as it gave them the opportunity to show unedited, raw personal truths to the world. Young people, like our generation, are constantly living on the computer and on mobile phones, constantly being bombarded with images and communication from the media about the world around them, about what other people think and how they should identify. I think that adds a huge amount of pressure, as they are overwhelmed with mixed messages at a crucial time in their personal development, when in reality they should be the gatekeepers of their own journey. With this project, I found it really important for it to not just be about taking a photograph, it’s part of a journey to learn more about how these young people are exploring their identity in everyday life and finding their place in our wider world. I learnt that even if we don’t see it, young people are also constantly recording their own lives on their phone and through social media, and if they’re not doing it themselves, then it’s someone else doing it for them, or showing them information second hand, like watching their older siblings make TikTok’s for example. It’s all about that 360 degree, high speed world. 

I think for me, it was different when I was growing up, because I didn’t have a mobile phone or social media. Even now, I don’t use mobile phones in the same way as some of the young people, so coming onto the project as an artist who shoots on my mobile phone, meant we could have quite an interesting dialect. We got them using polaroids, digital cameras, making art by hand, making social media reels behind the scenes and allowing them to take quite a free approach, as a response to how they are experiencing the world. I think the legacy that comes out of this project, is just how exposed young people are to information, and therefore how interchangeable exploring their identity can be. 

Anna Wijnhoven: You have a lot of experience working with young people in your practice. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and what it means to you to work with young people? 

Faye Héran: I grew up in a council house in Ladbroke Grove in London and I had quite a varied upbringing and went to a really diverse comprehensive school. I always wanted to give back to kids like myself in my work, who were creative, and perhaps were not able to find their way in the world at a young age. During my events career, I trained and worked with young people and adults with learning and physical disabilities, most notably the incredible organisation Shape Arts, which taught me about equality and accessibility in the arts. I also do kids raves for the award winning company Big Fish Little Fish, all over the North West, so I’ve always been around kids and love how creativity and free play can bring the best out of young people and how they respond with such honesty to making art or being able to express themselves in a safe environment. Every time I work with young people, my practice evolves, I learn something new and have my boundaries pushed by them. It is humbling that many of the projects I work on are attended out of choice, and that they want to return and participate each week and learn from me. It makes me feel like my art is only important, if it is also being made for future generations and with the input of future generations. I really wish when I was their age, that I knew that there were projects like this happening in my local area, as I would have had more confidence and a stronger sense of self. So I think working with young people is essential. Young people bring such joy to art. And I think you can see from the colour and all the fun in the exhibition, that they really do push boundaries more than adults do in their work sometimes.

Anna Wijnhoven: I think it’s such a good point, it’s part of the reason why I love this job so much. I’m in a position where I can help to give young people the experiences that I wish that I had when I was their age. 

Faye Héran: Totally. I had some tough moments on this project, as you know. I had some moments where I was actually emotionally triggered. When I went home in the evenings, after an amazing time at the workshops, because it made me realise, maybe if I had had a project like this when I was younger, my journey wouldn’t have been so tough, not just with my mental health, but with making sense of my own place in the world, and developing my self confidence.

Anna Wijnhoven: Yeah, it’s that openness, isn’t it. I think to be open about your mental health as an adult is incredibly brave, but for somebody that is a young adult or early teenager, to have that conversation and be so open and so accepting of others who are also going through the same thing, I think it just takes an incredible amount of power.

Faye Héran: I constantly felt like it was such an honour they were letting me into their world. I also valued the fact that they were very open about the fact that they were maybe having a bad day. So, for me, these projects are essential for young people.

Anna Wijnhoven: Life saving almost.

Anna Wijnhoven: Finally, can you give us a sneak peek into what’s next in the world?

Faye Héran: Like many artists who have finished a major project, I am having a little period of downtime and transition. But I don’t really understand the concept of downtime! So, I’ve actually gone right back to my archive of poetry, and I’ve been shooting a lot of self-portraits and moving images, all over the city for two personal projects, Do You Feel What I Feel? (2022 – ) and Fairy Psalms XX: II (2023 -). I am developing my practice by publishing my process on Instagram as I shoot. I would say a lot of this has come from being inspired by the Me, Myself, My SPACE project. The way the young people allowed me to film them, and show the world their true authentic selves in the project, has made me want to go even deeper into my own practice. It feels quite surreal to just have the space to do this as an artist. And I realise I have to keep producing brave and honest work, come rain or shine!

I will also, hopefully, be going to lecture with a few universities in the autumn. I’ve been doing it for several years at universities like Liverpool John Moores and Leeds Arts University and absolutely love it. I primarily lecture about fashion, but I also talk a lot about my self-portrait work, and I will most definitely talk more about this project to help inspire the people on those degrees to broaden their scope of practice. 

Apart from that I’m remaining in Liverpool as an artist and getting together with a group of other women artists soon, to explore what we can do to keep creating art and finding opportunities to really fly the flag for this incredible city! It is an exciting time to be an artist up North, so I hope I can keep evolving and working with galleries, including Open Eye Gallery, and leave my own legacy which helps inspire people to take a plunge and make art at any age!

Me, Myself, My SPACE is a project partnership between Open Eye Gallery and The Atkinson and is supported by Hope Streets, Curious Minds, Sefton Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The exhibition was on show at The Atkinson in Southport from 27th May 2023 – 9th July 2023.

See what the workshops looked like behind the scenes.

Faye Héran is a British-French visual artist, fashion stylist and educator from London. Her work tackles topics including mental health, diversity, gender, body positivity and social change. She currently lives in Liverpool and has collaborated with a wide range of clients and publications including Fact Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, The Walker Gallery, The Whitechapel Centre, Big Fish Little Fish, Vogue Italia, Dazed, Flannels and NIKE. Faye has recently been commended for her self-portrait work in the inaugural Liverpool City Region Photo Award. Instagram @fayeheran

Anna Wijnhoven is a Creative Producer for schools and young people at Open Eye Gallery. Anna is also studying for her MA in Socially Engaged Photography at Salford University and has a keen interest in how photography can support the well-being of young people.

Images:

Me, Myself, MySPACE, New Beginnings, 2023

Me, Myself, MySPACE, Rob Battersby, 2023

Pandemic Portrait Project, Faye Héran, 2021

Chamberlayne Wood School, photographer unknown, Circa ‘80s

Video:

Me, Myself, MySPACE, Anna Wijnhoven and Faye Héran, 2023



Get involved:
Volunteering

Find out more
Join our newsletter