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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Hanane in her kitchen, for the 'Heart and Parcel' cookbook, 2019
Frances and Mia, from 'The Mothers', 2013
Asha, commission by MIF creative, 2015

A Spotlight On… Rebecca Lupton

Open Eye Gallery’s interviewer-in-residence, Sara Sarf speaks with Rebecca Lupton – Photographer, Socially Engaged artist and founder of The Mothers and The Mothers: Life in Lockdown.

How did you get into photography?

I did a foundation course in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University and I really enjoyed the photography side of it – working in the dark rooms and being quite playful with film. I decided to carry on at Manchester Met and do a photography degree there. While I was doing the degree, I started assisting local photographers in Manchester who were doing fashion and editorial type shoots.

I then worked in a studio, which I absolutely hated. I learned loads from working in this environment, as there were certain restrictions that I had to work within.

When I left the studio job, I was thinking of going back to assisting and after sending out a few emails to photographers, one of the photographers pointed out that my work is good enough and I should go and work on my own. He gave me the kick that I needed to become a freelance photographer. I went out on my own, and didn’t really know what to do. I had some mentoring from a photographer called Len Grant, who was working on the kind of jobs that I wanted to do – more social documentary, illustrating stories, meeting real people and getting out and about. He helped me through those first years. I also did a bit of volunteering at Redeye (the photography network) at that time, I was quite heavily involved with them for about three years.

So how did you become a freelancer? And how did you start out your projects?

My first job was with the Guardian, and it was my dream job, but I also learned as well that in freelance work, you can’t take anything for granted. I started to realise that it was really important to have my own projects going on at the same time to keep up momentum of work and my ideas going.

I learned quite quickly that if you create your own work that you want to be commissioned for, then those commissions will come to you eventually. I started creating projects that were the kind of work that I didn’t know how to get commissioned to do – I just went out to meet people and asked if they’d be part of my project. The first project I did was in Levenshulme in Manchester, where I photographed independent business owners in a really multicultural area. It’s a unique place in the way that every single shop is owned by somebody from a different background and given nationality, and I wanted to show the diversity of Levenshulme. It was later featured as part of the Levenshulme Festival, a small local art festival, where lots of people saw those pictures and as a result I was then commissioned to do quite a lot of work, similar to that project.

Tell me about ‘The Mothers’ project? I saw it on Instagram and on your website and really loved seeing those pictures.

Soon after that I started a project called The Mothers on the advice of visual artist, Mishka Henner, who said to me, at one point ‘I think the best work comes from a place where the photographer is really involved in it’. And at that point, when I was trying to think of a new project I was thinking I’m just a mum, that is all I do at the moment. So, I started The Mothers when I was pregnant with my second daughter and I have been running it for nearly 10 years now with around 220 women featured on the site.

Originally I would go and photograph them in their house, and then either I would interview them or they would answer the same questions set for everybody – exploring the theme of motherhood and what we all think it’s meant to be and the actual reality of it.

Did you manage to work during COVID? How did that change your project?

Since COVID, I had to alter the project as I have my children at home and we weren’t allowed in people’s houses anymore. Inspired by Open Eye Gallery’s ‘Crossing Sectors’ programme I shifted The Mothers into a socially engaged project, in which I teach women how to take photographs in their own homes. Those taking part in the project are the ones creating the work. The Mothers: Life in Lockdown project started with an open call. We created groups where we would meet on zoom and I would set tasks and introduce them to the work of other artists. It was also an opportunity to chat about life, how creativity, motherhood and the pandemic was quite difficult, how we could overcome that and then just generally encouraging and supporting each other. They were also invited to contribute to a blog, which gave them a space to reflect on how it is being a mum in lockdown.

I wanted to do it where there were a few different ways that the mothers could get involved and it’s keeping the project very fluid. There was the blog and the project where people join more in depth and I would be guiding them as a mentor. I also created a hashtag on Instagram #motherslifeinlockdown, so women would be able to join in the project in a more easy and free setting.

The plan with it eventually is to make a book or magazine or some sort of exhibition but it’s so hard to know where we’ll be in a few months’ time.

So ‘The Mothers’ project evolved and shifted during the pandemic which transformed your way of working with people. Would you call it socially engaged practice?

The idea of the project was always about giving women a voice and making them more seen. Making it into a participatory project aligned perfectly with the initial kind of motivations of starting the project.

It’s a pilot project – I’ve never done anything like this before, so I want to see what works and what doesn’t work, and then make decisions based on my findings in the future. I’ve actually been commissioned to do my first job based on this pilot. I’m currently running a project on zoom with a group of new mums in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, where we’re exploring motherhood and photography within the lockdown situation.

It’s been really interesting how the Crossing Sectors programme helped adapt this project that I had and was really stuck with. It helped me to develop it and showed me that there’s this whole world of working (socially engaged, participatory photography) that I wasn’t aware of. While I have always had projects that have been working with organisations and groups of people to create artwork related to those people themselves, most often it’s been me making the artwork. And it was interesting in the ‘Crossing Sectors’ programme to hear about the differentiation between socially engaged photography and participatory photography. What I’ve done previously are projects in which I would get to know people and meet them in their place of work where I interviewed and photographed them. I would count these as socially engaged practice, but I don’t think I’d have known that it had a title before. I never knew how to categorise that kind of work. I would have always said it was social documentary photography, it was probably how I would have described it. Whereas this project that I’ve recently started is almost entirely participatory and socially engaged. I’ve hardly taken any photographs; it’s all been the people that I’ve been mentoring. I’ve been curating it and showing them different ways to present or helping them with developing ideas and their own practice.

Is this how you prefer to work in the future? Creating projects that allow more participation and interaction?

Working with people in this way, I think it allows me to be more creative. It’s so interesting to see how the way you engage with people and the way you interact and encourage them brings out the best in them, the parts of them that they didn’t even know existed. I’m helping people and observing what they do, however, ultimately, they’re in total control of the work that they do. It feels very collaborative – we’re all involved and together we are creating something new. But it’s recognising that I can use my knowledge, and my experience to get the best out of them in this situation and to get them to do amazing things, which is really rewarding.

Through the ‘Crossing Sectors’ programme I also realised that while I felt that I don’t fit in into the typical photography world, I do feel that I fit in at the socially engaged art world. I love working with people and being surrounded by people and in a kind of lone wolf photographer world that can be quite difficult to navigate.

 

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