Open Eye Gallery

The Faith Project

This Photographic project developed out of a five day Magnum workshop in Toronto with David Alan Harvey in 2009 . I had arrived in Toronto after a long flight only to have a series of debilitating migraines. I therefore abandoned my “Homeless” project for a day or two. During this time I wandered the streets of downtown Toronto feeling myself homeless and in need. I found myself drawn to quiet places like temples and churches. People welcomed me and … so began my meetings with various characters pursuing their spiritual paths and helping the homeless. Feeling unwell myself I felt I could be re-invigorated by these environments, and was. Then I wanted to pay tribute to those who took me into their flock.


©Lesley Brew

I wrote this to accompany the presentation I did in 2009 . Today revisiting this photographic work I remember what a rewarding experience it was to meet all those people . It has been said of my work that “ I aim to deconstruct interpretations of portraiture “, and that my projects often “deal with the notion of identity and belonging” . That they show the “relationship to the environmental “.


©Lesley Brew

I want my photography work to be experiential . Many of our life experiences are so fleeting and we easily disconnect because of self judgement and fear . Mindfullness is the form of attention which I feel I am striving to bring to my work . Whether the photographs are judged good or bad, my hope is that the connection will bring satisfaction and fuel creativity, giving a sense of place in the world , and impetus to carry on. My interest in the “stuff” we all surround ourselves with made me choose wide angle shots . For me it was as important to show the red candles on the side table and the pastoral scene in the painting hanging above the sitter, as it was the sitter themselves .


©Lesley Brew

The Faith Project was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Finding Vivian Maier

The cliché of the suffering artist, locked away in their room, unappreciated. We love it don’t we? The art critic, Rene Ricard, describes it so well in the 1981 essay he wrote about Jean-Michel Basquiat, entitled ‘The Radiant Child’, where he first coins the term, ‘The Van Gogh Boat’.

“Everybody wants to get on the Van Gogh Boat. There is no trip so horrible that someone won’t take it. Nobody wants to miss the Van Gogh Boat. The idea of the unrecognized genius slaving away in a garret is a deliciously foolish one. We must credit the life of Vincent van Gogh for really sending that myth into orbit.”


We buy into stereotypes, foolishly at times. Yet deep down we know that in this day and age it is so rare for a true talent not to be uncovered. So what is so remarkable about Vivian Maier? Well, it’s how little interests she shows towards the fame and fortune of artists like Van Gogh. Vivian kept her passion for photography largely unseen from the world, as interviews with friends and former employers reveal what a secretive individual she was.

John Maloof, director of Finding Vivian Maier, bought a box full of her negatives for around $400 at a Chicago auction back in 2007. Since then John has documented, archived, and collected Vivian’s work, exposing her to the world. Apposing what friends portray as Vivian’s reticent nature. Maloof’s benevolence towards Maier is an intriguing sub plot to this documentary. However you do really have to swagger through the self-indulgence in which Maloof narrates his account to feel any remote respect for what he’s achieved. He asks us though, smugly, “Why do we take photos?” Answering, “If it’s not for our selves and others to see and appreciate, then why is it?”

1950s. Chicago, IL

Focusing back on Vivian herself, this documentary provides a worrying insight to her detriment. Certain eccentricities such as talking in a questionable French accent, and obsessively hoarding over newspapers lead us to question Maier’s mental health. However her passion and devotion to documenting the world around her demonstrates a true voyeurism and empowering sentiment. Maier’s trademark Rolleiflex portraits, normally shot from a low viewpoint, have captured a host of spellbinding images of American life during the second half of the twentieth century, making her one of the most notorious and talked about street photographers today.

Looking for Vivian Maier is a pleasant testament to the artist and is definitely worth a watch, if only to familiarise yourself with her comic eye, and ability to get close to an array of fascinating individuals. Yet I do speculate whether Maloof has forced Maier to take a horrible trip on the Van Gogh boat, or done something truly wonderful by sharing her photographic talents with the rest of the world?


In collaboration with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Open Eye Gallery’s Director Lorenzo Fusi will present a short lecture on Vivian Maier’s photographic practice. The lecture will be followed by a documentary screening of ‘Finding Vivian Maier’. For more information, click here.

Finding Vivian Maier was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Liverpool Biennial Events

The Liverpool Biennial runs right up until October 26th, meaning there are lots of exciting events taking place across Liverpool.

We have picked a selection of upcoming events over the next two weeks, including our free monthly exhibition tour of ‘Not All Documents Are Records’ taking place on Sunday August 10th at 2.30pm.

Drinks With… Lynne Tillman

Thursday July 31st 6pm, free booking is required, Liverpool Medical Instiution.

Book tickets here.

Join novelist Michael Bracewell in conversation with author and critic Lynne Tillman, as they examine her approaches to writing fiction, looking closely at her decision to write narratives as analogues to contemporary art.

liverpool medical institution

James Mcneill Whistler Tour

Saturday 2nd August 2pm, free booking required, The Bluecoat.

Book tickets here.

Simone Mair, Assistant Curator of the Liverpool Biennial will be giving a guided tour of the James Mcneill Whistler exhibition, a controversial American painter who is considered the ‘original’ contemporary artist.


Talk Tuesdays: John Moores Painting Prize

Tuesday August 5th 1pm, free no booking required, Walker Art Gallery.

This is a series of tours, artist talks and discussion events, exploring the John Moores Painting Prize. The first tour is lead by art historian Julie Robson in which she will discuss a variety of pieces from this year’s exhibition.


Broadcast of Symphony No. 11: Hillsborough Memorial

Wednesday August 6th 3.06pm, free no booking required, Liverpool Cathedral.

If you missed the live performance of Michael Nyman’s ‘Symphony No.11 Hillsborough Memorial’ on July 5th you will have the chance to hear a recording inside the Liverpool Cathedral. The symphony represents Michael Nyman’s thoughts of the tragedy of Hillsborough 25 years on.

liverpool cathedral

Group Show Tour

Saturday August 9th 2pm, free booking required, The Old Blind School.

Book tickets here.

Ellen Greig, Assistant Curator for the Liverpool Biennial will be hosting the exhibition tour for the  ‘A Needle Walked into a Haystack’ group show, this features the work of numerous commissioned artists who were also asked to show some of their previous pieces of work.

group show

Liverpool Biennial Events was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Independents Biennial 2014: Monthly highlights

Open Eye Gallery is pleased to promote the activity of The Independents Biennial running from 5th July to 26th October 2014.  Previously established as the fourth strand of Liverpool Biennial, The Independents has grown rapidly since 2004 to become a completely autonomous fringe festival that runs alongside the main Liverpool Biennial.  The aim of the organisation is rooted in supporting the creation, production and presentation of high quality work by emerging artists active in a local, national and international context.  Here’s a brief overview of this months highlights:

John Davies, Turning Green To Brown

John Davies, Turning Green To Brown

John Davies – Turning Green to Brown

For a period of 10 days during May 2014 John Davies spent 90 minutes each day in Sefton Park Meadows photographing portraits of regular visitors to the space.  Asking 112 adults with 96 agreeing to participate, the project has been developed as a statement against local authority proposals to sell off Sefton Park land for executive housing and at the wider austerity measures currently taking place on a national scale.

All 96 portraits will collectively be shown at The Old Police Station on Lark Lane with a selection of larger prints being displayed at Quaker Meeting House Café and Unit 51 Coffee, Baltic Creative throughout July and early August.

Mark chapman , Friction creates heat

Mark chapman , Friction creates heat

Mark chapman – Friction creates heat

5 – 31 July

Unit 51 Baltic Creative 5 – 31 July

Mark Chapman presents a series of digitally distorted urban landscape images in response to the dramatically volatile conflict between the positive and negative attributes of increasing population density within urban environments. Chapman describes the ‘glitches’ seen in this body of work as representations of the tension, excitement, conflict and bonding apparent within our cities.

Adrian Jean, Nice Heads

Adrian Jean, Nice Heads

Adrian Jean- Nice Heads

Location: 42 Nelson Street, Liverpool, L1 5DN

Dates: Thursday 3rd July – Sunday 31st August, 2014

Nice heads is a series of portrait heads modeled in Jean’s distinctive signature style which poses the question, is it the subject’s character being depicted as expressed by his or her facial expression or is it the artist’s character as expressed through his or her style of working?

Fore more information on all featured works please visit

Independents Biennial 2014: Monthly highlights was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Book Review: Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology’

‘Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology’ looks at thirty-six American artists and their work during a period spanning the late 1970s to the early 1990s. It suggests a relationship between two influential modes of artistic expression that were prominent during this exciting time in American art: firstly ‘appropriation’, where artists borrowed from and adapted pre-existing multimedia sources to present new work, and secondly ‘institutional critique’, where artists interrogated the structures of society and the treatment of art within those ideological frameworks.

The artists featured in ‘Not All Documents Are Records’, the current exhibition at Open Eye, either draw from or anticipate these creative movements. What emerges is a fresh approach toward photographic documentation, where it assumes a role as dynamic, active agent in art and society.

‘Take It or Leave It’ provides us with considerable insight into traditions and creative contexts that inform the work of Hans Haacke, Cristina de Middel and Ira Lombardia in particular. Perhaps Paul Morrison’s wall work, too, assumes new significance, if we interpret his appropriation of found images to create a fantastical visual narrative as a critique of the conventional exterior presentation of arts spaces.

The publication of Johanna Burton and Anne Ellegood’s Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology accompanied an exhibition of the same name, displayed at Hammer Museum in LA, February – May 2014, Featuring artists as wide-ranging in approach as Dara Birnbaum, Mark Dion, Robert Gober, Barbara Kruger, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Adrian Piper, Stephen Prina, and Fred Wilson.  Each examined within the context of the larger culture – from the political landscape to design strategies in advertising.

Available online and in store at Open Eye Gallery’s shop for £40

Book Review: Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology’ was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Impossible Shots: Not All Documents Are Records Launch

What better way to try out our new black and white polaroid film than by documenting the launch of our new exhibition: Not All Documents Are Records, which looks at the idea of photographing exhibitions as an art form? Open Eye volunteer Luke Martley investigates…

We used SX-70 film though we also stock 600 film in both colour and black and white.

We’re really impressed by how well this film handles compared to previous versions of Impossible’s black and white film, the whole process feels much more refined and stable, allowing the photographer more time to concentrate on framing and looking for that decisive moment.

Impossible film is sensitive to temperature and is said to operate ‘best’ between 13 and 28° C. This can be exploited in order to achieve specific results; the film’s sensitivity to its environment allows for further experimentation, images can be affected by not only light but also temperature allowing a special kind of serendipity to occur during image making. Whilst shooting I made no effort to regulate temperature, I stored the images in my shirt pocket during the development (Impossible advise shading prints from as soon as they are ejected throughout the development, about 5-10 minutes for monochrome) which could have allowed my body heat to effect the process. The images have a strongly graphic/cinematic feel to them. Their high contrast gives them an immediacy, which is reflected in the (almost) instant nature of the Polaroid process itself.

We’ve had a lot of fun playing with Impossible film and would like to give Open Eye visitors a chance to experiment for themselves!  The kind people at Impossible have helped us put together a goody bag to celebrate the return of Impossible products to our gallery shop.

If you’d like to win a selection of Impossible film please send a digital copy of your best polaroid together with your name, contact details, image title and film specifications to

Competition deadline Friday 8 August at 12 pm

In the meantime, you can buy Impossible products in our gallery shop by following this link

Impossible Shots: Not All Documents Are Records Launch was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Not All Documents Are Records: Self-Pulblished and Special Editions

Open Eye Gallery volunteers Caroleann Rennie and Kyle Tarbuck explore the exciting range of self-published editions by Cristina De Middel and Ira Lombardía newly available in the gallery shop to coincide with Not All Documents Are Records: Photographing Exhibitions as an Artform.


Signed: £20 / Unsigned: £15

Buy from Open Eye

Reviewed by Caroleann Rennie

Ira Lombardía: And I think to myselffffffffff, what a wonderful worlllllllllld

This self-published zine documents Ira Lombardía’s journey in which she created a fictional artist and physically placed “their” work in the exhibition catalogue of dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, 2012.

The text, written by Lombardía herself, is almost a diary. She states her thoughts about the work, how she took photographs and bought the catalogue. Later she goes on to explain how she removed the pages of a particular artist from an original exhibition catalogues, and then placed the fictional artist’s work in its place. Lombardía has explained this book as a history of how she produced the artwork.

The text is written in both Spanish and English, the first section (in Spanish) is accompanied by images, some that she included in the catalogue as the fictional artist’s work. Although there are not many images included, there’s one that stands out; a scanned hand written letter Lombardía sent to Erkki Kurenniemi, the artist who she cut out of the original catalogue, she apologises for cutting him out and explains the reasons for it.

“My name is Iraida Lombardía, and I’m a criminal of sorts.” This opening statement along with a letter and text explain her feelings about removing Kurenniemi’s pages from the book.

This is not a typical art or photography book; unlike most artists’ texts, Ira Lombardía’s explains the processes taken to create the piece shown in the gallery. The text contextualises the outcome and gives an insight into Lombardía‘s practice as an artist.


Signed: £80

Buy from Open Eye

Reviewed by Kyle Tarbuck


Within the pages of this beautifully presented one-of-a-kind SPBH (Self Publish, Be Happy) edition, Christina De Middel simultaneously presents re-appropriated documentary photographs and found objects to cultivate an abstracted amalgamation of reality and fiction in response to her ideas surrounding the increasingly fickle nature of authenticity in visual media.

Using New York as a backdrop, De Middel’s use of images with token objects tucked between the pages creates a tangible and playful microcosm of the city’s reputation and associated mythologies for the viewer to decipher as they navigate their way through the layers of its narrative components.  To accompany her body of work on display, Open Eye Gallery has an extremely limited quantity of this highly collectible publication for sale.


Signed: £10

Buy from Open Eye

Reviewed by Kyle Tarbuck

Untitled Limited Edition of 50

Presented in the form of a newspaper style zine,  ‘UNTITLED’ is a commission created specifically for Open Eye Gallery as part of Liverpool Biennial 2014.  It is a disjointed montage of found imagery and text from previous editions of Liverpool Biennial, manipulated as such to create an all-encompassing critique of the collective art institution with particular reference given to the subject of value, copyright, originality and subjectivity.

To accompany the new commission currently on display, Open Eye Gallery has a limited quantity of signed and numbered (edition of 50) Untitled publications available to purchase in the gallery shop and online.

Browse our full range of books that relate to our current exhibition by following this link to our online store

Not All Documents Are Records: Self-Pulblished and Special Editions was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Preview Night 6-8pm

Not All Documents Are Records: Photographing Exhibitions as an Art Form

Preview Night: 4 July 6-8pm

Join us 6-8pm tonight for the preview of our Liverpool Biennial exhibition, Not All Documents Are Records. We are delighted to welcome Ira Lombardía, whose work is on display at Open Eye Gallery and Mariachiara Di Trapani, who has coordinated the Ugo Mulas photographs we are exhibiting, to the preview night. Our director, Lorenzo Fusi, will be making a speech at 7pm. We look forward to welcoming you to the gallery!

Not All Documents Are Records represents Open Eye Gallery’s contribution to the Liverpool Biennial 2014. The exhibition, curated by Lorenzo Fusi, looks at three key international visual art platforms through the lens of photography, moving between the past and future. The main theoretical question underpinning the project is: “Can photography be the site where the history of an exhibition is produced and still retain its independent artistic autonomy, thus overcoming pure documentation?”

Check our social media platforms for regular updates:

Preview Night 6-8pm was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Environmental Photographer of the Year

With the announcement of this year’s Environmental Photographer of the Year(EPOTY) finalists comes a collection of images that force entrants and audiences alike to consider the challenges of a growing population, climate change and limited resources. Yet although powerful and urgent, for many Western viewers these scenes depict distant problems that swiftly escape our consideration as we return to our everyday lives.

Prasanta Biswas,  Matilda Temperley

Prasanta Biswas,  Matilda Temperley

It is when these images are considered alongside the shortlisted works of the recently awarded Prix Pictet prize that we can truly begin to grasp how our own, seemingly trivial actions are affecting the world around us, transforming our landscapes, climate and even our identities. United under the theme “Consumption,” its visual array of processed meats, sex dolls and rooms overflowing with material goods leads us to consider how these wider issues affect us on a daily basis.

Photography has long played a significant role in the growth of a conservation ethos, particularly Carleton Watkins’s images of the Yosemite Valley. Capturing the splendour and sublimity of its vast, unspoiled landscapes, his images were used to gather popular support for the area’s preservation during the Gold Rush. It is this powerful sensation of sublimity evoked by Watkins’s images that triggered such a reaction, rather than any real concern for the health and wellbeing of its natural ecosystems.

Today, many contemporary artists seek to elicit a similar response not from the sublimity of wild nature but that of its destruction and devastation. Edward Burtynskyexposed the paradoxical nature between beauty and destruction, with his images of natural landscapes transformed by man-made industry. These, he believed, captured “the sublime landscapes of our time.” His vast, aerial landscapes are made spectacular in their scale, immensity and power, possessing an eerie beauty despite their far from attractive subject matter.

© Ed Burtynsky

© Ed Burtynsky

Nominated for the Prix Pictet award, Mishka Henner’s “Beef and Oil”similar series captures the by-products of America’s most precious industries; beef farms and oil fields. Shot from directly above, his images are stripped of any realistic depth and clarity, rendering them beautiful through their abstraction. We are falsely lured into this beauty until we recoil suddenly as we note the feedlot’s rippling lake of blood and the barren wastelands created to accommodate our consumer habits. This sublimity “of our time”is that of destruction itself. Here, unlike the pristine American West of the 19th century, there is nothing to preserve and protect– it has already been destroyed.

© Mishka Henner

© Mishka Henner

One step beyond photojournalism, we must ask ourselves how aesthetic appreciation can be found, not in the suffering of others but in that of our own inevitable suffering. Just as the reality of war ravaged areas and third world poverty lies safely beyond our reach, the sheer scale and scope that the environmental crisis poses is so incommensurate from our ordinary, everyday experiences that it is almost impossible to apprehend.

The Prix Pictet finalists thrust these issues into our personal spaces, giving audiences no choice but to consider the consequences in relation to their own daily lives. Nominated for his series “My Things,” Hong Hao creates landscapes not dissimilar from Henner’s – vast collages made up of every material good he has consumed over a twelve year period. As in Henner’s work, it is only once we realise what these images depict that we move beyond their aesthetics, repulsed by the immense quantity of things accumulated throughout one’s lifetime.

© Hong Hao

These images highlight the fallacy of our assumptions that, through this incessant pursuit of consumption, we assert some sort of distinct self-identification that sets us apart from the rest of society. If we were to accumulate our own possessions in a similar manner, the final visual product would presumably differ very little. Rather than crafting our individuality, we are merging together under a bland persona of mass-produced consumer goods. Kevin McElvaney’s EPOTY entry of the world’s largest e-waste dumpsite in Ghana, invites us to consider how many of these items we really need in our lives, and how many are destined to a fate atop these toxic dumpsites.

© Kevin McElvaney

© Kevin McElvaney

Written by Emma Seery

Environmental Photographer of the Year was originally published on Open Eye Gallery

Krakow Photomonth Festival 2014

Curated by Aaron Schuman, this year’s Krakow Photomonth Festival invites its audience into a seductive, hybrid version of reality, where imagination, memory and mythical creation cohabit ambiguously.

Bringing together a series of works united around the theme Re:Search, the photographic medium is turned in on itself, examined as a form of research in its own right. Even the festival title itself is interrupted, the word sliced through the middle as though in cross-examination. It’s this introspective scrutiny that contemplates, as much as the finished pieces, the creative processes beneath.

Here, we witness the artists’ attempts to make sense of an otherwise chaotic, arbitrary world. Jason Fulford believes “Your whole life is a research”,and endeavours through his work to uncover the“connections between the things.”  His photobook Hotel Oracleis built entirely around a fictitious, impossible hotel with no address. To instil within his creation a glimmer of realism, he has hosted events around the world that coincide with different parts of the hotel – the bedroom in New York City, the terrace in Paris, the wine cellar in Milan, the swimming pool in Los Angeles.

Clare Strand 1

© Jason Fulford

The foundations of his Hotel Oracle are built upon its audience’s desire to be swept away by the mythical, drawn there by the promise of something extraordinary. We scour the images for some profound meaning, hidden amongst the commonplace objects that are suddenly infused with mythical status. Just as the myths of ancient Greece offered answers to otherwise unfathomable musings, Fulford extends an invitation to search our surroundings for those things the everyday world fails to answer. A project that was conceived during a trip to Greece, where the area’s ancient myths imbued the landscape with meanings that weren’t actually there, Hotel Oracle unveils the possibilities of multiple realities existing beneath the surface.

© Jason Fulford

© Jason Fulford

Clare Strand’s retrospective exhibition Further Readingsimilarly plays with this arbitrary nature of meaning, as she intertwines fictitious narratives and supernatural elements with “trustworthy” genres of photography. Her images of crime scenes in Signs of a Struggleare accompanied by fabricated narratives. Detailing murders that never happened, they confound the veracity that forensic photography promises. Their initial authenticity is merely a deception, and even this meticulous, official approach to research becomes shrouded in unexpected fallibility. This struggle between fact and fiction mirrors that encountered in settling crime cases, where multifaceted accounts of the “truth” are presented by all parties involved.

© Clare Strand

© Clare Strand

The same is true of her series Conjurations,where images of the macabre cannot even enjoy its status of “non-realism.” The mystery of a body levitating eerily in mid-air stands directly beside blatant fabrication, as a young girl drapes a cloth over herself in a makeshift, phantom horror scene. Such contrasts lead us to wonder at whether the floating body is instead perhaps falling towards the ground – something that would instantly reassign the image back to the realms of reality. Are we simply guilty of crafting magic from thin-air, imbuing the image with a fantastical meaning that wasn’t really there?

© Clare Strand

© Clare Strand

Taryn Simon’s series The Picture Collection presents arrangements of images taken from the New York Public Library collection, an extensive archive of over 1 million images digitised from books, magazines and newspapers. Unlike Fulford and Strand’s works, this context of documentation does not readily offer up its images as ambiguous or evocative. It’s a visual archive and the images serve as indexes to the objects depicted.

Yet, perhaps more subtly than the previous works, Simon questions this indexical nature of the photograph by drawing attention to the processes of classification, ordering and cataloguing at play. Its images assume new meanings, dictated solely from their grouping together into this particular order. The photograph’s ability to document and faithfully represent reality is tentative, even within a methodical, archival project such as this.

© Taryn Smtih

© Taryn Smtih

Her work alludes to our perennial need to apply structure and order to the random, indeterminate nature of reality, and suggests that in doing so, we effectively limit our scope of understanding. She makes reference to search engines, the medium through which modern audiences acquire their knowledge of the world. The “top” results are merely an algorithmic response, and represent popular taste and cultural trends at a given moment.

An interesting project to consider in light of this is the metaphorical search engine, Youssarian Lives, which claims to offer an intriguing alternative to online research by returning results that are “conceptually related.” It is anarchic ways of finding connections such as this that the 2014 Krakow Photomonth extols, in its desire to seduce us towards the magical side of reality.

Written by Emma Seery

Krakow Photomonth Festival 2014 was originally published on Open Eye Gallery