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

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Zak Bennett
Zak Bennett
Zak Bennett

‘Capturing Communities’: A Conversation with Emerging Photographer Zak Bennett

I caught up with budding photographer and Whitby High student, Zak, who has recently been involved with the recent Community project at The Open Eye Gallery. Community is an exciting collaboration between the gallery, students at Whitby High School, and Hinderton Primary School and is supported and made possible by the Building on Recovery creative arts grant from Cheshire West Voluntary Action via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

On placement, here at The Open Eye Gallery, I have uncovered a newfound appreciation for the intersection of my university studies and the vibrant, ever-changing world of photography- especially socially engaged projects. Working within my own community throughout this placement has been particularly meaningful and the opportunity to connect with young photographers such as Zak has been an enriching experience capturing to me the power of visual story-telling in creating connections and bridging communities together!

Both myself and Zak have grown up in Ellesmere Port, so it was really special to capture and discuss Zak’s views on it as a community and its creative potential beneath the surface of its ‘small town’ reputation. We explore how the lens creates a community within a community and can capture something simultaneously personal and universal, through the beauty of socially engaged photography.

Zak uncovers how photography and the Open Eye gallery have helped him on a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery, providing a platform for his future endeavours and prospects to travel the world and capture an array of communities and pockets of everyday life.

We talk through his creative processes, specific interest in abstract photography and the challenges of choice and freedom he overcame which have in reflection developed his confidence not only in his creative work but also in personal growth:

‘The project has completely got me out my comfort zone (…) and pushed me the extra mile.’

Interview:

Sadie: First of all, your work is brilliant. Especially the sphere work, I just thought it was amazing. I went to the l library the other week and it all looks amazing. So, you should be really proud. That leads me onto my first question, What was the main thing you wanted to convey within your work? How did you actually achieve the shot with the sphere and was there any specific inspiration behind that? What was the main idea?

Zak: I wanted to produce something that’s a bit more unique from everyone else’s work. I researched a bunch of different approaches to the theme ‘People and Place.’ I came across ‘abstract’, which shouted out to me. So Ii thought, oh, I’ll try that. But,what about abstract can I test and play around with? I found this crystal ball, and I thought that would be perfect, because it sort of magnifies and flips, anything propped behind it. I thought that would be absolutely perfect. So I tried that out on a few test shots. The smaller photo was actually the first one I took, and I was more than happy with it. And yeah, I just tried more shots of it, and it turned out to be what I was expecting and what I was looking for.

Sadie: Yeah it looks so good. It turned out amazing. Were there any challenges you found throughout the process? Or throughout the experimentation process that you had to overcome?

Zak: I say it was a challenge full of challenges really. I think the biggest challenge I faced was the amount of freedom I was given, and having to decide and go through all the different sorts of techniques and opportunities I actually got within it. So for example,as mentioned before, how I’m going to put all the photos on the wall or how I’m going to actually choose what I’m photographing? And I think that was ‘the’ challenge, but it was something I enjoyed.

Sadie: What was your experience with working with The Open Eye Gallery? How was that?

Zak: Meeting all the different staff and learning what they do, whereabouts in the gallery they work, and how they produce it all i just thought was amazing. It’s an opportunity that, you know, not everyone gets, and it’s a bit different from sitting in school and doing the same old coursework on your computer. And it’s stepping out of your comfort zone. To be honest with the gallery, and obviously the photographer Craig Easton, it was just an opportunity that, you know, you can’t say no to and you can’t refuse. And they were all really friendly. They all helped us. They all supported us. And I think it was just a great experience overall.

Sadie: What was Craig Easton like? What was it like collaborating with him?

Zak: He was really informative and really sparked my creativity. He talked through his photographs with a lot of passion, giving us stories behind them and just gave us a really insightful overview of what the project was about!

Sadie: How do you think being involved with a cultural institution such as the gallery and with photographers like Craig Easton has impacted your creative and personal growth? Not just within photography but also any aspect and area of yourself and your self-development?

Zak: I think it just boosted my confidence completely. I would say I was already a brave person in terms of speaking out and being engaged socially and with the community but this project has completely gotten me out of my comfort zone, pushed me that extra mile and encouraged me to do more and carry on.

Sadie: So has this project inspired you for your future? Obviously, you’re currently applying to university but do you have any plans beyond that? Any further areas of socially engaged photography you may want to explore or communities you may want to go out into and uncover?

Zak: I’ve thought about this before and sat with myself thinking: in the future, what do I really want to do? And from this came the plan to be able to travel the world and take photos of all kinds of different subjects and communities to really capture the specific and unique cultures and characteristics of different people that maybe others wouldn’t be able to witness themselves.

Sadie: Yeah, I feel photography is a really good platform for exactly that. Shedding light on different experiences and in this case your own community. So where in Ellesmere Port was this taken exactly?

Zak: They were taken in my two favourite places: My back garden and the local park, which both happen to be my favourite spaces.

Sadie: Was it Whitby Park?

Zak: Yes. So the park was somewhere I would go to a lot when I was younger, with my cousin and when the opportunity to be involved with the project arose, I thought photographing there would be perfect in reflecting my own community.

Sadie: What elements and stories from Ellesmere Port as a community did you aim to capture? It sounds like it was quite personal to you and you wanted to engage with your own personal spaces.

Zak: I had seen this in all my inspiration and other people’s works. It was photographers either telling a personal story or sharing somebody else’s stories. And I wanted to explore that in areas that people find have the same meaning. For example, my home. Everyone’s home is special to them. And the park would be somewhere local, that I like to occasionally go to, and it’d be the same for other people and just be able to share that is just a nice thing for people, and a nice way to connect.

Sadie: Yeah! I loved how it was both your personal community and then like a physical community merged together. So, looking ahead do you see yourself continuing to explore community themes within your work? I know you mentioned travelling but are there also any other specific areas of Ellesmere Port that you think have potential for exploration? Any specific communities?

Zak: Yeah I definitely do. If you think of Ellesmere Port, it is just a bunch of different communities and we all live differently within it. Even you know, your neighbours, you live differently from them.And from that, I think there’s just so many possibilities to go and photograph different aspects of the way people live and the area they live in. And I think, like said, in every street, there’s a different situation going on with everyone. So imagine that in a whole town. There’d be loads of stories.

Sadie: Yes, I love that. I feel Ellesmere Port has so much going on beneath the surface which I think you’ve captured perfectly with your picture and the use of the crystal ball.

Zak: Exactly. Well, the amount of people that refer to Ellesmere Port as a small town. It may be physically, but to us it is huge. There’s loads of areas to photograph that are unique and lots of communities too.

Sadie: Even the canal and The Boat Museum, as physical spaces, their architecture would be really captivating.

Zak: Yes definitely, there’s a lot of potential for the exploration of abstract.

Anna: How do you think working with The Open Eye has changed your perspective on what photography can be?

Zak: I said to quite a few people last year I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had not got a clue, I didn’t even want to go to uni. And I think after doing this work with the gallery it’s given me ideas and made me realise photography is the thing for me. And the gallery has helped me find that while also providing me with more skills and more knowledge.

Anna: I’m so glad it helped you figure that out.

Sadie: That’s what’s so amazing about photography, it gives you that space for self-exploration.

Anna: I think in a world where we are constantly being told we have to be fast, and have an output for everything, just to have the ability to have that moment for ourselves, even if it goes absolutely nowhere, to create something and live in that moment.

Zak’s journey through this project not only showcases his exceptional talent but also reveals the power of embracing challenges and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. The collaboration with The Open Eye Gallery and photographer Craig Easton has provided a platform for Zak’s creativity but also instilled a newfound confidence and passion for the world of photography! The experience of working with a cultural institution and engaging with different perspectives have significantly contributed to Zak’s personal and creative growth.

Zak’s aspirations to travel the world and document diverse cultures demonstrate the profound impact this project had on his future outlook and endeavours. It serves as a testament to the transformative potential of art in encouraging self-discovery and understanding. His journey throughout this community project serves as a reminder to find beauty and stories in the ordinary, inspiring us to explore and appreciate the diverse narratives hidden within our own communities!

Text: Sadie Waring

Images: Zak Bennet

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