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VR: Wirral Hospitals’ School and MaxLiteracy Award

10 June - 3 September 2021

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Return To Nature

30 July 2021

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VR: First Light New Northern Graduates Exhibition

22 May - 4 July 2021

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We Are Nature

30 July - 14 August 2021

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

16 July - 15 August 2021

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Digital Window Gallery: Who We Are

8 July - 31 July 2021

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Whose Land Is It?

8 July - 19 September 2021

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VR Student Exhibitions: UCEN

9 June - 13 June 2021

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VR Student Exhibitions: Youth Culture by Whitby High School

23 June - 27 June 2021

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VR Student Exhibitions: Arc with Hugh Baird

16 June - 20 June 2021

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First Light: Photography Writing Now – Tilt Launch Party

9 July 2021

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OPEN ROOMS #14: Separated Together

24 June 2021

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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

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First Light New Northern Graduates Exhibition

22 May 2021

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Open Eye Gallery book club presents: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

3 June 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Interior Tension

22 June 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Networked Beings

8 June 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Things Are Strange

25 May 2021

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OPEN ROOMS #12: INDEPENDENTS BIENNIAL

6 May 2021

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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

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Reclaim The City: Suzanne St Clare

8 April 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Parallel Histories

11 May 2021

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First Light Spotlight: After Nature

27 April 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Unearthly Matter

13 April 2021

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Hanging out: Interviews

23 March - 5 April 2021

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Digital Window Gallery: Independents Biennial

18 March - 6 June 2021

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First Light Spotlight: Corrupted Archives

30 March 2021

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First Light Spotlight – Connecting new photography with writing

16 March 2021

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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

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Introducing Energy House

23 February 2021

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

25 February 2021

The Course

12 February 2021

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PLATFORM ISSUE 3: HOPE

12 February 2021

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OPEN CALL: THE STORY OF LIVERPOOL THROUGH ITS TREES

1 January - 30 April 2021

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OPEN CALL: HOMETOWNS

11 February - 31 March 2021

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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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Keleenna Onyeaka, Looking Back. 2000s
Keleenna Onyeaka, Looking Back. 1950s
Keleenna Onyeaka, Looking Back. 1900s

Interview: Keleenna Onyeaka for Open Source #018

This month, Keleenna Onyeaka shares his series Looking Back for Open Source #018. Open Eye Gallery Programme Assistant Declan Connolly fires over a few questions.

DC: Hey Keleenna, thanks for submitting your project Looking Back for Open Source!

KO: Hi Declan, no thank you, I’ve been waiting for the right platform and time to share these images and the opportunity to do so via Open Source this October feels right

DC: Open Source exists to platform early-career and developing artists but I was surprised to see how recently you began photographing. What made you pick up a camera to begin with?

KO: Thank you! It’s been such a rapid and exciting journey. There’s a combination of things that made me realise I had a passion for image-making, but I think the most profound experience was during the summer of 2017 when I moved to Lagos, Nigeria for three months. At this point, I was contemplating relocating to Lagos in the future. While I was there, I made an effort to take as many random pictures of my surroundings as possible so that I could refer back to them in the future when making a decision on relocating.

Lagos is a busy city, and visually it is easy to get overwhelmed, but during this documenting process, I found myself able to pause the noise and once I started doing that I started noticing I could anticipate moments and create images that carried a distinct message and story. The images I was capturing started felling less random, and I began to appreciate the power of the photograph as a medium for communication and exchange. After that, I decided I wanted to do this more often and started reading books on photography and bought my first DSLR a year later.

DC: I understand you have an interest in contemporary fashion but this series looks through a very specific history of style, what was the catalyst for this project?

KO: I’m very interested in African history and in particular Igbo history, but unfortunately, for someone in the diaspora access to this history is difficult to come by outside of what your parents tell you. But in a bid to fill in this gap, over the last few years I’ve found myself reading a lot Igbo history books such as the “History of Igbo People” by Elizabeth Isichei and “Igbo political culture” by Elechukwu Njaka. However, as informative as these textbooks were, as a visual learner I always got excited when I came across historical photographs as they had a way of making the history I was reading about “Real”.

After a while, I started noticing that a lot of the photographs I was coming across in some of these history books were staged, not in the sense of a family portrait but more so as subjects of study. It made me begin to question who was behind the lens of these images, and what their intentions were.

As I sought more context behind a lot of these images, I realised a lot of them were created for anthropology purposes. While this is important for the preservation of history and culture, it made me question who actually held ownership of my visual history. I felt as though the ownership of my visual history was misplaced or not as secure as I initially felt when I first saw these images of my culture over the century. This prompted me to do this project as a way of highlighting the importance of questioning the source ownership of your visual history. The project also serves as an attempt to re-document and shift some of that ownership back to me.

DC: Research into previous documentation of Igbo fashion and representation has played a huge part in how you have approached your model and subject matter, how did you decide on the fashion choices for more recent history? I imagine this must have been a collaborative effort in some way.

KO: Yes, it was collaborative, and I had the generous help of Steph whose a founder of OkwuID – a UK based platform who promote and celebrate promote Igbo culture, language, and history. For each look, we used a lot of visual references and selected looks that came up the most. But in particular, for the more recent fashion choices, we used Igbo pop-culture references and using styles seen in iconic images of Igbo celebrities, musicians, actors, footballers as seen in magazines, Igbo musician music Videos and Igbo Films.

DC: You’ve made a tonne of work across a range of genres in the brief time you have been making pictures but even in your street photographs, there’s an empathy running throughout; Your work always seems to be social. Do you think the photographer has a responsibility to actively engage with a public?

KO: Yes, I think visual information and communication is a massive part of how we communicate. With photography being a close visual representation of reality it’s ability to speak and communicate is more accessible to a wider audience than say paintings or even words that are arguably less objective in their representation of reality.

In order to make the world a better place and to help each other in our bids to navigate the world we share, I think anyone who has a platform and the gift to speak through photography, being a medium that can be easily read by a broad audience, has an obligation to use this tool for good. However, I don’t think this ends at just documenting or creating thought-provoking images I think there is also an obligation to provide context where possible as it is easy for viewers to forget that there was someone behind the camera when they see an image. Without this context, it opens the door for miscommunication between the photographer, the subject and the audience.

DC: Thank you so much for sharing Looking Back and for joining our programme!

KO: Thank you so much for bringing the project to light! Again I’m honoured and look forward to working with Open Source in the future. I’m also inspired by the recognition and hope that one day my work will be on display the inside of the Open Eye Gallery!

You can see Looking Back throughout October on our Digital Window Gallery and view more of Keleenna’s work on his website: https://keleenna.myportfolio.com/

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