Touring photography exhibition set to engage young people to challenge stereotypes of northern communities

Categories: University Campus

The University of Salford Art Collection is set to launch a touring exhibition at galleries across the Northwest. Craig Easton: Is Anybody Listening? is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and will showcase two award-winning series of photographs, alongside an engagement programme for young people called Our Time, Our Place.

A long-time advocate for authentically representing communities in the North, Easton’s exhibition seeks to challenge stereotypes and raise aspirations of young people within the region.

Craig Easton: Is Anybody Listening? will tour across four locations, Salford, Blackpool, Liverpool and Birkenhead.  The engagement programme, Our Time, Our Place, which also includes Blackburn, will empower young people to discuss current issues, explore their own history, and share it through pathways in photography and associated practices.

The programme will connect with young people through dedicated workshops and encourage them to submit work that will be presented at a separate symposium in spring 2024. With the aim of championing and supporting young talent, Easton will also mentor eight 16–25-year-olds from across the Northwest, and the University of Salford will invite every young person involved to explore their art collection and archives on campus.  The engagement programme will also provide a springboard for commissioning new work in response to the themes, targeted at graduating students.

“Fundamentally, this project aims to instil pride and inspire communities to shed a new light on their heritage through photography,” says Lindsay Taylor, Curator at the University of Salford Art Collection.

“Craig Easton is one of our valued alumni and to have him onboard for this project is very exciting. Together we hope to empower marginalised voices to explore their own social history through a lens.”

Easton won Photographer of the Year (2021) at the Sony World Photography Awards with his series Bank Top, a collaboration with writer, poet and social researcher Abdul Aziz Hafiz, examining the representation and misrepresentation of northern communities. Commissioned by Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, the work focused on a small, tight-knit community in Blackburn.

He also took second place in the documentary category for Thatcher’s Children, which explores the inter-generational nature of poverty and economic hardship as experienced by three generations of one family across the Northwest.

A passionate believer in working collaboratively with others, Easton also conceived and led the critically acclaimed SIXTEEN project with sixteen leading photographers exploring the hopes, ambitions and fears of sixteen-year-olds all around the UK.

He often tackles stereotypes and responds to the negative way in which the mainstream media can portray Northern communities. The relevance of Easton’s work has resurfaced in a new light as communities endure the cost-of-living crisis and face new challenges and segregation.

Craig Easton said: “I believe in the importance of committed documentary photography as a visual record of our social and cultural history. As such I’m excited to be part of the Our Time, Our Place programme to encourage and support young people across the region to find their own ways to express their concerns, examine our ever-changing society and explore our communities. I hope that between us all we can make work that will, for years to come, stand as an historical record of the challenges we face in 2020s Britain.”

In addition to the tour and engagement programme the funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will also enable key pieces of his work to enter the University of Salford Art Collection, as a permanent legacy of the project.

The exhibition comes at the same time as the launch of Easton’s new book centred on his award-winning Thatcher’s Children series. Quotes from successive prime ministers demonstrate how deprivation is connected to the social policy failures of successive governments.

The exhibition and engagement programme will launch on 12 January 2023 at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool and continue through to March 2024 at the following locations:

  • Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, 12 January 2023 – 26 February 2023
  • LeftCoast and Blackpool School of Arts, 7 April 2023 – 1 June 2023
  • Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, June 2023 - July 2023 (engagement programme only)
  • New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery, University of Salford, 18 September 2023 - 22 December 2023
  • Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead, 24 January 2024 – 30 March 2024

Image:  Craig Easton, Thatcher's Children

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