Art Gallery Liverpool
Image by Abbie Jennings

Ahead of the exhibition's much-anticipated launch, we sat down with Claire Griffiths and Mark Hobbs of Disparity to find out more.

Hi both, thanks for speaking with us - What more can you tell us about this project?

The Disparity Collective was brought together through the Redeye Photography Network. The subject matter came about through a series of group discussions around themes. As a group, we had played around with a number of other suggestions which we felt sat well with each other's practice and backgrounds. Including titles such as “Behind the Curtain” and “New Religion”, Power had been mentioned so many times within group presentations, it became a possibility that it would make good subject matter. “Positions of Power” was eventually agreed - with the group feeling an affinity to the term and perhaps a relationship to each individual personal photography practice – we felt we had a lot to work with thematically.

Can you tell us more about what Redeye’s "Lightbox" project is and how it helped give rise to this exhibition?

Lightbox is a year-long development and residency programme run by Redeye Photography Network, designed to challenge knowledge and help encourage participants to the next stage of their photography careers. The twenty selected participants attend several weekend-long workshops covering subjects such as marketing yourself as a photographer, working collaboratively and how to fund projects. Attending talks from established photographers such as Chloe Dewes Matthews and Fiona Yaron-Field. We split into three groups of seven, of which Disparity is one. We have used our varied skills and strengths within our group, plus our new knowledge, to put together our group exhibitions.

Disparity were mentored and guided by Kate Jesson, curator at Manchester Art Gallery. Her involvement has been a real boost. Her feedback particularly in group sessions helped us to really question and develop work around the theme of Power, providing information on curation and how we would like to produce and show our work enabled us to feel really supported.

Exhibitions in Liverpool
Image by Drew Forsyth

What different views did each photographer take on this notion of “power”? Will visitors need a discerning eye to understand the nuances in the work or are the pieces accessible to all?

All the photographers in the group didn’t know each other previously, and all had different training and approaches to photography. The outcomes have been very interesting and allowed us to really pursue personal photography investigations that we might not have had the chance to do so ordinarily.

The theme “Positions of Power” opens up a lot of questions that can be explored through photography. The Disparity members really wanted to use their photography to make people take notice of what the term power is or can mean, in its many contexts and connotations.

Abbie Jennings’ ongoing photography series explores female representation in football and associated assumptions of women and their relationship to football. Jamal Jameel’s portraits of asylum seekers might allow the audience to question restricted power or how you and I feel about immigration.

Drew Forsyth’s collaboration with principal ballerina, Bethany Kingsley Garner, challenges the public perception of ballet, and showcases the athletic power of a dancer’s body.

Some of the members question elements of mass media and popular culture with Claire Griffiths investigating perceptions of people and place instigating a final game with social media. In Keeley Bentley’s images, the male gaze is turned around, her work nodding towards cinematic themes.

Mark Hobbs looks at how children discover what power and hierarchy are, and how heavily we are still ruled by our primitive selves. Perhaps something that seems to have no apparent power at all holds ultimate power indicated in Conrad’s drone pictures of landscapes.

We want the audiences to come to their own conclusions when looking at the photographs and hope that the images will be interestingly provoking, both aesthetically and within context. Although there may be some traditional elements, conceptual threads encourage the viewer to question the overt assumption of what power means in today’s society.

Art Exhibition Liverpool
Image by Keeley Bentley

How important is it to you as a collective to be involved in the Art in Liverpool Independent’s Biennial Fringe?

Art in Liverpool, The Tapestry Exhibition Space and The Double Negative have all helped us on our journey, from our “test” exhibitions to working with us to culminate exhibitions over the Independent's Biennial Fringe.

Coming to The Biennial as a collective has allowed the group a real chance to have the space to experiment with work and has enabled us to create new relationships in Liverpool widening our networks as collective and as individual photographers. The Biennial gains national and international recognition and it’s great to be involved in such an amazing opportunity that takes place in such a warm and welcoming city. Working as a photographer can be isolating so being able to bounce ideas off other members in the group has been really inspirational, there is a sense of excitement and a feeling of solidarity as we start to approach the time of showing our work at Constellations. Perhaps as individuals we may not have had these opportunities but as a collective we have been able to create our own platform.

What's next for Disparity Collective, where else are you looking to take the project?

We are looking forward to producing a zine to compliment the work being shown at Constellations. We're also looking at a further space currently being offered by Art in Liverpool whilst the Biennial runs.

Individual members of the group will continue to work on separate projects; Keeley is currently completing her MA and Claire Griffiths is showing work at The Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool as part of her #RetiredPerformers series. Drew will be showing work in Manchester in the Autumn. Abbie Jennings' work will be on display as part of the Women Behind The Football Lens exhibition at the National Football Museum.

Disparity Collective Liverpool
Image by Claire Griffiths

"Positions of Power" launches Wednesday 11th July at Constellations and is free to attend. The exhibition will run until the end of the month. More information is available in the event listing below.

To accompany their exhibition, the team behind Disparity Collective have curated a playlist of music related to notions of power. Tune in for music by Stevie Wonder, R.E.M. and Prince!