Exhibitions

VR: Wirral Hospitals’ School and MaxLiteracy Award

10 June - 3 September 2021

Exhibitions

Return To Nature

30 July 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

VR: First Light New Northern Graduates Exhibition

22 May - 4 July 2021

Exhibitions

We Are Nature

30 July - 14 August 2021

Exhibitions

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival — Jessica El Mal: Grounds For Concern

16 July - 15 August 2021

Exhibitions

Digital Window Gallery: Who We Are

8 July - 31 July 2021

Exhibitions Main Exhibition

Whose Land Is It?

8 July - 19 September 2021

Exhibitions

VR Student Exhibitions: UCEN

9 June - 13 June 2021

Exhibitions

VR Student Exhibitions: Youth Culture by Whitby High School

23 June - 27 June 2021

Exhibitions

VR Student Exhibitions: Arc with Hugh Baird

16 June - 20 June 2021

Past Events

First Light: Photography Writing Now – Tilt Launch Party

9 July 2021

Past Events

OPEN ROOMS #14: Separated Together

24 June 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

Student Exhibitions: Whitby High School

23 June - 27 June 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

Student Exhibitions: UCEN

9 June - 13 June 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

Student Exhibitions: Arc

16 June - 20 June 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

Digital Window Gallery: HOMETOWNS

10 June 2021

Exhibitions Main Exhibition

Digital Window Gallery: Postcards from us x

10 June - 20 June 2021

LightNight 2021: Play

21 May 2021

Heavy Gardening Art Trail Photowalk

21 May 2021

OPEN ROOMS #13: A BALKAN JOURNEY WITH CHRIS LESLIE

17 June 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

First Light New Northern Graduates Exhibition

22 May 2021

Past Events

Open Eye Gallery book club presents: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

3 June 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Interior Tension

22 June 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Networked Beings

8 June 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Things Are Strange

25 May 2021

Past Events

OPEN ROOMS #12: INDEPENDENTS BIENNIAL

6 May 2021

Exhibitions Past Exhibitions

Liverpool Biennial 2021: The Stomach and the Port

19 May - 6 June 2021

Picturing England’s High Streets: Prescot

7 April 2021

Picturing England’s High Street: Chester

7 April 2021

Exhibitions

Reclaim The City: Suzanne St Clare

8 April 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Parallel Histories

11 May 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: After Nature

27 April 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Unearthly Matter

13 April 2021

Exhibitions

Hanging out: Interviews

23 March - 5 April 2021

Exhibitions

Digital Window Gallery: Independents Biennial

18 March - 6 June 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight: Corrupted Archives

30 March 2021

Past Events

First Light Spotlight – Connecting new photography with writing

16 March 2021

Past Events

OPEN ROOMS #11: ON THE CORNERS OF ARGYLE AND GLENWOOD – PHOTOBOOK IN COLLABORATION

11 March 2021

Freelance Photographer in Residence Position

23 February 2021

Family Page

23 February 2021

About Alternative Lens

23 February 2021

Projects

Introducing Energy House

23 February 2021

Past Events

Open Rooms #10: All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

25 February 2021

The Course

12 February 2021

Past Events

PLATFORM ISSUE 3: HOPE

12 February 2021

Events

OPEN CALL: THE STORY OF LIVERPOOL THROUGH ITS TREES

1 January - 30 April 2021

Past Events

OPEN CALL: HOMETOWNS

11 February - 31 March 2021

Past Events

WHAT WE DO IN LOCKDOWN

5 January 2021

HYPERTEXT: Books Beyond Bars – Felix McNulty in conversation with Sarah Jane Baker

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Ruth White – The Role of the Photobook in Representing the British Working Classes

28 November 2020

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Celebrate Liverpool, Georgia Bond
Caring In Confidence, Georgia Bond
Week By Week, Georgia Bond

A Spotlight On… Georgia Bond

Socially-engaged photographer, Georgia Bond started working with children supported by Cheshire Young Carers in 2019. Her project Caring in Confidence reflects the photographic collaboration between Bond and the young carers, constituted through a series of drop-in photography workshops hosted in respite sessions. The body of work is a process-driven project, which created a space for experimentation of visual art through sustained collaborative practice. It demonstrates that creative opportunities can have positive effects on the mental health of children, specifically young carers.

Kelly Bryan: I understand much of your photography practice has surrounded socially engaged projects, specifically involving children. What encouraged you to follow this path?

Georgia Bond: As an artist, I always wanted to use my practice to help people in some way. I didn’t realise the extent of which I could do this using photography until I was mid-way through my degree. I ran a voluntary photography class for children aged 6-13 in a community centre in Coventry. Fellow artist Tia Bryant and I co-founded the class during our second year of university. Throughout the 6 months, we taught the class the basics of digital and analogue photography through group work. We each kept a scrapbook where we would record what everyone wanted to do in the classes, things that we enjoyed and anything that we felt inspired by. One time, a 7-year-old wrote that she liked the class because it was safe and fun. It was at this point I saw the benefit on the young people we taught, I found it really inspiring.

You are currently employed as a Session Co-Ordinator at Cheshire Young Carers. Please could you tell us a little more about this role and how it has so far influenced your socially engaged practice?

My role with Cheshire Young Carers is to provide respite to children aged 6-18 that care for somebody which includes residential trips, workshops and events. I am lucky that within my role, I have a lot of creative freedom; I design content for the charity including reports and also run creative workshops and trips. As well as this, my role has a large focus on the wellbeing of the children. I have designed and run wellbeing sessions with mental health co-ordinator Daniel Nester.  During these sessions, the young carers learnt about the importance of physical wellbeing, new skills and self-development. A key theme within the sessions was recognising the benefits that come from supporting others whilst also recognising the importance of accessing support for yourself. Through engaging in the creative wellbeing sessions, it helped the young carers see how they can take care of their own mental wellbeing by accessing support, developing coping techniques and identifying steps they can take to make time for self-care. My socially engaged practice and my role at Cheshire Young Carers have intertwined in a sense, I am constantly engaging with the children in a creative manner and with the resources and support that my role gives me, I am able to create socially engaged art with the children I work with over a longer period of time.

Why did you feel this was the right occupation for you?

I knew I wanted to work in a role where I had the opportunity to help people in some way, I was passionate about working with young people and also wanted to be able to work creatively. This job has combined this all for me. I think initially I was worried that my job would have less creative freedom than I imagined, but I have used the skills taught from my degree since starting and been able to build on them in a variety of ways. One of the outcomes from my project with the young carers Caring in Confidence, was a video piece consisting of images taken by all members of the group, interviews between myself, the young carers and those who helped facilitate the project. Since creating this, I have created and edited many videos for the organisation. My creative skillset has expanded as well as my confidence in the work that I create.  

Socially engaged work requires high ethical consideration, particularly when working with children. Could you explain the process required to create a safe space for children during your projects?

The first thing is always consent, with children this has to come from their legal guardian or parent and this includes their right to withdraw. For me, a safe space comes from how you think the collaboration would benefit your participants. The children should understand that they participate at their leisure and that they mustn’t photograph anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed. I believe that as a facilitator the more fun you make the activity, the less pressure they feel to be within that space which in turn makes it more relaxed and enjoyable for them. 

You have worked closely with the participants involved in your socially engaged projects. Please could you provide an insight into the impacts (whether these are positive or negative) socially engaged practice has?

Over the years I have noticed the positive impacts that socially engaged projects have on participants’ wellbeing. I think providing a space for conversation has the ability to impact people in a variety of ways. You never know what may come up, but by creating a safe, open and creative environment for the conversation allows people to express themselves and share. Socially engaged art can be an outlet for many or even a healthy distraction, it allows people to build relationships and collaborate. This sharing of knowledge and creativity in my experience has brought such positive impacts to the communities of people I have worked with. Personally, each project is different in the context of how that young person has positively impacted from the engagement. In self-portraiture sessions and conversations around representation, I have seen children’s confidence develop by using photography as a tool of empowerment. Following a recent photography trip, I received feedback that a young carer found the trip really beneficial as it helped contribute to the enhancement of her emotional and mental wellbeing. Both situations provided a positive space for expression but in different ways that also helped my own wellbeing. Alternatively, I do think that a rigid approach to socially engaged art can bring negative impacts. It is essential that participants are able to express themselves freely without pressure for it to be positive.

How important do you feel socially engaged photography is to your participants? 

I think the act of collaboration and learning something new is important to so many people whether that’s something they’re aware of in that act or it’s a subconscious understanding. I notice the excitement within younger participants a lot, as soon as they join a workshop the first question is when they can use the cameras. I wouldn’t say they recognise this as important, as such, but their participation and enthusiasm that comes from this is important to their development. A teenager that I’ve been working with recently said, ‘I would definitely say that the act of participation is important to them and the benefits even more so.’

Would you say your projects have formed a sense of community amongst the participants involved and if so, what impact has this had? 

The greatest sense of community that derived from a project I did, was during my collaborative body of work Week by Week which was made alongside artist Tia Bryant. The class of children was a group that had never come together before but as the weeks went on, they would be so excited to come into class and see everyone. The children were all from the same community and the class led to friendships being formed outside of the space we had created. 

If applicable, did you notice any developments in the children (this could be mentally/confidence etc.) from starting the project and at the end?

The biggest development that has been continuous in this project is the positive development in confidence within young people. Starting a project, you always have participants who are shy around the camera which is expected but it is always so rewarding when you notice a change in their self-belief. In my most recent project Caring in Confidence, I interviewed the children towards the end and asked them whether they liked being photographed. One young girl told me how she viewed herself had changed throughout the project and she enjoyed having her photograph taken.

I understand socially engaged practice can have an unusual power dynamic between participant and facilitator, particularly if this participant is a child. How do you overcome these concerns? 

When you work with children, you need to safeguard them and yourself and be responsible for their safety.  With that comes the obvious power dynamic, which may suggest that because you are their elder and you have responsibility for their safety that you have control over what they do creatively. I agree that the importance comes with how you navigate this. For me it is all about the respect that you have for your participants as a facilitator. You need to show your participant no matter their age that they create what they would like to and you assist the learning and practice of this. I think tasking participants should act as a prompt rather than a command. I also try to act as a participant to a project by being involved in the same activity as they would instead of instructing them, being there for support when they need it and encouraging freedom within that.

I think we would both agree, it is important to note that socially engaged photographers do not provide their participants with a ‘voice’; instead they create a space in which these individuals can be heard. How do you navigate the control, yourself and the participants have, within your socially engaged projects?

Yes, definitely. It took me a long time to understand the complexity of control within socially-engaged work. You may start a project with an ideal visualisation of how it should end, but this is something you have to avoid. By being open to the variety of ways a project can develop, you respectfully give control to your participants. Your control should lie with ensuring everyone feels safe and comfortable enough to ask for help. Your participants should have their creative freedom, as long as this is done in a manner which is respectful to their fellow participants, this usually means they have a good amount of control. 

What do you feel makes a successful socially engaged project and do you have any tips to achieve this?

I think that a successful socially engaged project is engaging and collaborative with a positive power dynamic which we spoke of earlier. In terms of outcome, as long as participants have equally gained something then to me that is effective as you should want to confidently benefit them in some way. Open dialogue and expression comes with sustained engagement, as does an enjoyable community, which is something I find important. My tips are to make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and want to see a positive result from. Allow your participants to contribute what suits them and always communicate your plans. Always involve your participants in a collaborative manner and of course, make sure you enjoy it!

Do you have any future plans for your photographic work?

Right now, I am working in a variety of ways that I think will influence my future work. I am studying for a diploma in child psychology so that I can use creative practice for wellbeing but with a better foundation of knowledge to do so. When we are able to, I have some exciting photography workshops and trips with the young carers to experiment with the camera in a different capacity, night photography at residentials or landscape photography on nature walks. At the moment I am really focused on combining my interest and passion for both art and mental health.

Kelly Bryan is a writer and visual artist based in the UK. She uses the physicality of photography to poetically explore intangible narratives. She often peers through a phenomenological lens to question themes including belonging, domestic structures and relationships. Alongside fine-art and documentary photography, Bryan is an avid writer with a broad range of professionalism in commercial, art-based and journalistic writing.

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