An exhibition bringing together socially engaged projects reflecting local views of the high street and shifting environments through regeneration and development.

The exhibition opens 29 September to 23 December 2023.

Launch Night: Thursday 28 September 5.30pm – 8pm (RSVP)

Open Eye Gallery is delighted to present A Place of Our Own, a group exhibition which brings together the local stories of people across Walton (North Liverpool), Prescot (Knowsley) and Chester town centre. What connects these three projects is a pride in people’s memories and associations with each place, and also an acknowledgement of redevelopment and regeneration needed within each area. Like many urban areas across the country, and particularly across the North West there lies a fine balance in celebrating the heritage and culture of these areas whilst making room for the new. And who else is best placed to discuss this issue, other than those that live and work on those streets?

We invite you to come and celebrate A Place of Our Own, and contemplate what a place of your own means to you.

Reimagining high street in Prescot

Photographer Tony Mallon has been working in collaboration with local residents from Prescot since summer 2021. He invited people to set up a local photography group to reimagine the high street and create a contemporary portrait of the area. Tony placed the cameras in the hands of local residents, supporting them to become the documenters of their own community, using a combination of street photography and portrait techniques to tell their story.

Tony Mallon said:

In 2022, I established a weekly photography club at Prescot Church Hall which gave local residents the opportunity to develop their photographic skills and contribute to documenting their ‘High Street’ using portraiture and street photography. The weekly photography walks have revealed for many Prescot’s rich and hidden history. The participant’s have highlighted that the ‘High Street’ should still be the beating heart of our town centres and have been enthusiastic about capturing a slice of social history – photographing shoppers, shop/business owners and their staff and the buildings/spaces they frequent most days to shop and socialise.

I’m so proud by the quality of work that has been produced and how the participants
have embraced capturing their town centre. This collaboration and co-produced work has shown how the ‘High Street’ has evolved yet still gives a sense of identity and pride. A place that was, still is and should be for future generations it’s beating heart.

This residency is a part of Prescot’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone Project. The high streets programme is led by Historic England, in collaboration with Knowsley Council and provides a heritage led regeneration approach.

Stories of the traders on the historical Rows in Chester

For the past two and a half years photographic artist Suzanne St Clare has been working with business owners trading on the historical Rows in Chester
Together they’ve been chatting about how these business owners came to Chester, their community, challenges, the quirkiness of independent trading and their love and passion for this beautiful, historic city. Inspired by photographers such as Daido Moriyama, Gregory Crewdson and Julia Fullerton-Batten, the traders and Suzanne have been working together to create a series of stunning images and video works that document the daily lives, stories and individuals who make up this local high street.

Suzanne St Clare said:

It has been such an enjoyable experience to work so closely with the traders on the Rows and I am so grateful to them for being welcoming and supportive when simultaneously running their businesses.

When I was little my dad would drop me off in Chester whilst he visited wholesalers, probably not acceptable today but perfectly fine in the 1970s! I would wander round the shops with my pocket money in awe of these buildings that looked so different to anything I had seen. It is remarkable to me that 40 years later I have had this special opportunity to really get to know these people. I have been touched by their kindness and appreciate being trusted to have an insight into trading on such a historic and unique site. I have loved hearing their individual stories and seeing the quirks and eccentricities of the British high street.

The traders have embraced the photographic challenges that were at times out of their comfort zones and at the end of this project we feel we have created both an authentic and creative representation of their working lives and experiences.

Exploring identity and belonging with young people in Walton

Meanwhile in Walton, photographer in residence Lucy Hunter has been working closely with a group of young people from Walton Youth and Community Project and youth worker Connor Wells to explore the County Road area. Over the past year, the young people’s photography group, who all live locally, have been meeting weekly to experiment with different cameras and techniques to share their perspectives and experiences. The group enjoyed regular photo walks, experimenting with shadow and slow movement, noticing the way the light and atmosphere changed as the sun began to set. They also focused on the people and places which felt most important to them in their local area.
The work produced by the young people also sits alongside a wider selection of photography made during workshops or sessions between Lucy and other local residents, all of which has also been supported by assistant photographers Sarah Weights and Tricia Grant-Hanlon.

This residency is a part of Culture Liverpool’s County District Centre scheme and is part of Next Generation Neighbourhoods programmes. This provides opportunities for creative consultation and engagement in neighbourhoods as part of many of Liverpool City Council’s wider regeneration schemes.

Lucy Hunter said:

Working on this residency has been such a fulfilling experience. There is a strong community in Walton and all who I’ve encountered during my time have been keen to help, support and show enthusiasm for the project. The young people and staff at Walton Youth and Community Project are such an inspiration and it’s been a privilege to spend the last year working alongside them. I feel that the imagery that the young people have made shares a whole new perspective, full of heart and authenticity. I’ve been so impressed by the groups’ talent and commitment to trying new things, pushing themselves and carving out their own individual styles. Their ability to capture little moments of magic and seek out the unexpected has been a joy to witness.

Supporting artists, Sarah Weights and Tricia Grant-Hanlon worked alongside me and offered invaluable support and learning to both myself and the group participants. I am very grateful to them for their ideas, contributions, and care. No matter the challenge, as a group we have persevered, and I am so proud of what we have created together.

The Chester and Prescot projects are part of the national Picturing High Streets project commissioned by Historic England and delivered by Photoworks as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme. It is produced in partnership with GRAIN Projects, Impressions Gallery, Open Eye Gallery, London College of Communications, Photofusion, QUAD/FORMAT, Redeye, ReFramed and The Photographers’ Gallery.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme is the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Tamsin Silvey, Cultural Programme Curator, Historic England said:

“These photographs present an authentic and poetic portrait of people’s experiences of their high streets. The images they have produced with local communities tell the stories behind the shop fronts and celebrate the people that make these places so special.”

The exhibition opens 29 September to 23 December 2023.

Launch Night: Thursday 28 September 5.30pm – 8pm (RSVP)

Categories: Arts | Community Event | exhibition | Free | Liverpool | News | Photography

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