Unlocked is a new outdoor photography exhibition by Ealing London Independent Photography, featuring a collection of images reflecting on life during the pandemic, and embodying hope for the future. The exhibition, which is being billed as London’s tallest outdoor photography exhibition can be seen covering five storeys of Ealing Police Station, from the 11-19 September, 2021 as part of BEAT, and beyond. The exhibition features 35 1.5m long photographs, taken by 14 different photographers, all members of Ealing LIP.
We spoke to Edmond Terakopian and Jonny Baker from Ealing LIP, and you can read our interview with them below.
London’s Tallest Outdoor Exhibition Of Photography, Ever*
Five Storeys Of A London Police Station – A Group Exhibition By 14 Photographers
UNLOCKED – LOOKING BACK LOOKING FORWARD
An innovative outdoor photography exhibition ‘UNLOCKED’, is being installed across the whole frontage of Ealing Police Station, on all 5 storeys, launching on Saturday the 11th of September 2021.
UNLOCKED – LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD has been created by the photographers of Ealing LIP as a response to the strange and surreal experience of the year of lockdowns. We met virtually over this last year and a half, chatted on Zoom, the idea for Unlocked was hatched and a year later, it has become a reality. The project reflects on the things we all noticed over that strange time, our common experiences and the things that caught our attention. We look forward with hope to the future and to re-adapting to ‘real’ instead of virtual life, starting with this huge scale exhibition of non-virtual images.
PLACE: Ealing Police Station, 67-69 Uxbridge Rd, London W5 5SJ
DATES: 11-19th September 2021, as part of BEAT. The exhibition will continue thereafter for the foreseeable future
Meet the photographers
Members of the group will be present at the exhibition for the BEAT weekends, on Sunday the 12th, Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th of September, from 2-4pm.
Ealing LIP is a satellite group of London Independent Photography (LIP), a London-wide membership association of photographers (enthusiast and professional) who meet regularly to share work, attend talks, offer support and create exhibitions.
In 2020 of course, we were not able to exhibit. To mark this special year and the early emergence from the pandemic, we chose to make the 2021 exhibition a very special one.
35 large scale photographs (measuring 1.5m wide each), from 14 photographers, will be displayed outdoors, across the front panels of the police station, visible and accessible to everyone, seven days a week. The exhibition will be part of BEAT, the Borough of Ealing’s annual art festival.
We’re delighted that this innovative project has had the kind and generous support of Gogar Services, Fujifilm and Clarion Futures, along with a crowdfunding by art lovers. With thanks also to Pixelrights for their continued support of our gallery: http://ealingphotogallery.co.uk
* We’ve looked far and wide and haven’t been able to find any other exhibition of photography which has been on the scale of Unlocked.
Q&A with Edmond Terakopian and Johnny Baker from Ealing LIP
How did you guys come up with the idea?
Edmond Terakopian: Our group, Ealing London Independent Photography, usually meets monthly in a local pub’s private events room, but because of the lockdowns and public health concerns due to the pandemic, we took our meetings onto Zoom, like everyone else! Almost exactly a year ago, after having had to cancel our usual annual exhibition, we were thinking of seeing if we could do something for the Christmas holidays. We decided that it had to be outdoors and something people could see when they popped out for exercise of food shopping. Jonny Baker came up with an idea of an Advent Calendar type thing, that we could possibly mount on a shop window and the idea grew to doing some shops in a row. As soon as the Advent Calendar was said though, I started thinking of a matrix of images and my thought process took me to seeing if we could go to a closed hotel and use their windows and like a lightbulb, the thought of Ealing Police Station came to mind! As the group were discussing on Zoom about the shop windows, I blurted out with uncontrollable excitement, how about the Police Station?! I was met by a sea of thumbnail faces on Zoom, with expressions that hinted, the lockdown’s clearly effecting Edmond!
The idea for the content started off as 202020; so 20 images from lockdown, for 2020. As I started off conversations with the Metropolitan Police, due to the unprecedented nature of our request, things took longer as many internal discussions were taking place, so the 20 in 2020 was dropped to a larger matrix of images which reflected each photographer’s personal journey through these surreal times. Frankie McAllister who had come up with the brilliant 202020 name, came up with the superb name for the project as it stands; “Unlocked”.
We formed a group of organisers and Frankie McAllister, Jonny Baker, Sean McDonnell and I spent the next 12 months working on making our idea, born during a virtual meeting, into a reality.
Jonny Baker: During the various lockdowns we discussed doing a group exhibition that would be accessible outside so that people were safe and could see while out walking. We initially were planning something for December 2020 as a reflection on the year. We had the idea of an advent trail that would have a photograph in the window of a venue and each day in December unveil a new one so people could follow a trail. That discussion of advent led us to talk about advent calendars and a group member said they imagined something that looked like that on the side of a building. At that point we began thinking about buildings in Ealing and Edmond said ‘what about Ealing Police Station?’ It seemed a crazy question but an email to someone who knew someone began a process that took several months of seeking permission and to our amazement after it had been up the Met chain of command the answer came back with a yes. The time got pushed back so it made good sense to then have the exhibition as part of BEAT, the Borough of Ealing Art Trail as it is a local festival we have taken part in before. So we are launching it during BEAT 20.
How did you select the images?
Edmond Terakopian: We invited all our members to submit images around the theme of their personal journey through lockdowns and in the end, had a selection of images from 14 photographers. The 163 images were edited down by me as a first wave, into 69 images, which were sent to the Metropolitan Police for approval. As an outdoor exhibition and one which was actually to be on a Police Station, this was something we had agreed right from the beginning.
Images which were political or had graffiti in them, were rejected, but no editorial bias or aesthetic decisions were made by the Met, leaving us creative freedom to curate. The organising team of four of us then met. We’d made 62 prints and over the space of two hours, laid these out on a floor and kept editing them down, moving them around until we had curated a matrix of 35 images which worked well together, flowed and told the story of the pandemic lockdown and glimmers of hope looking forwards.
Jonny Baker: We wanted to do something reflecting on the pandemic and the times we have been through. We knew that straight away. But given the timing we felt it was important to have something that was looking forward as well as back. Then secondly the Police Station is set back from the road a bit so the images needed to be bold or graphic in style so they worked from a distance. That was the brief and we invited members of the group to submit lots of photos colour and landscape. Then the curation team spent did a first sift on those images and then spent an evening with prints laying them out on the floor and arranging them. That was based on a mix of things – covering a range of themes and ideas but not too many repeats of the same thing (for example masks, or NHS), colours, what seemed to go with what. Gradually like the pieces of a jigsaw it settled into something we felt worked as a whole. I remember when the ‘Hug’ love heart was positioned as the central image that felt really powerful and moving for example. And in some ways that is the thing we really love about the images. They feel like they work as a whole. The impact of the whole seems more than the sum or the parts.
Was it hard to get the police onboard or were they quite supportive?
Edmond Terakopian: I wouldn’t say it was hard, but it was very challenging. Primarily because nothing like this had ever been done before, was a completely unique idea and for the Police Service, a completely original and unprecedented request. Our first email to them was at the start of October 2020. At the beginning of March 2021, after many, many email conversations, we got the final “thumbs up” and the project had been given a green light by the Metropolitan Police Service. We were over the moon and extremely thankful to the two officers who helped get our unique request up the various levels of command. Without their support and passion for our rather novel concept, it would never have happened.
The next major hurdle was the funding. Doing any outdoor exhibition costs multiple times more than any indoor show, let alone one which goes up five floors and becomes London’s tallest outdoor exhibition of photography! We divided the workflow and I went to look for sponsorship whilst Sean McDonnell looked into various arts grants. As the exhibition as going to be part of BEAT (https://ealingbeat.org.uk) we had a deadline, so the pressure was on. We also started a crowdfunding for lovers of photography, which helped raise the funds. I’m extremely thankful to Alastair Snowie from Gogar Services and Andreas Georghiades from Fujifilm, who immediately recognised the uniqueness and creativity in the project and became our two main sponsors.
Clarion Futures were also kind enough to approve a grant and thus became our third sponsor. The joy we had when we cleared our fundraising and could move ahead was electric! Having a creative idea which one wants to share with the community is one thing, but making it a reality is an entirely different prospect! We’re also most thankful to United Graphics who came on board to make the 1.5m prints at very keen prices, helping us stretch the budget to getting the highest quality of print and lamination, to ensure the images pop and weather the conditions they will face over the coming months.
Jonny Baker: We made an initial contact with the police through someone who knew someone who worked there. That was a good start and to their credit they said they would ask. It then went really quiet. That was for two reasons. The first is there is always something going on for the Police. While we have been working with them they have been busy on the Euros or on XR so we’re not top of the list which is fair enough. The second is that they run a chain of command so it has to go up that chain and that takes time. But the good thing about that was that once it had gone up the chain and we got a yes it was a definite yes. Since that time, apart from being hard to get hold of at times, the officers we have worked with have been supportive and indeed been enthusiastic about the idea and the photos once they saw them.
Understandably we had to run the photos by them to be approved as part of the process. But we think and hope they will be very happy because the photos really look great and in the process we have cleaned their building!
What do you have to achieve from the event?
Edmond Terakopian: As creative photographers, being cooped up indoors, have trips cancelled and so on, is demoralising, to say the least. One idea behind the project was to give the group a project to shoot towards and to realise that the daily life they were photographing, was actually a reportage in itself. The outwards idea was to share, not just for the normal way one shares photography, but to show that we’re all in this together. We’re all going through the same challenges, but within these challenges, if one becomes mindful and looks deeper, positive elements of humanity rise to the surface and bring hope and often joy. During these dark and surreal times, warmth and hope exist if looked for and as photographers have a unique way of looking deeper, we hoped to bring this mindset to the wider community.
Whilst there are pictures of Unlocked on social media, I really hope that people can make a trip to see it for real. The scale of the exhibition is mind-blowing and really brings a strength that seeing the images online just doesn’t achieve. If you’d like to chat to the photographers, members of the group will be present at the exhibition for the BEAT weekends, on Sunday the 12th, Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th of September, from 2-4pm. The exhibition will continue for the foreseeable future and we think will see in 2022.
Jonny Baker: The idea of the exhibition was to create a space for reflection on what we have been through and what we are going through still. When you see the images they resonate with almost anyone – the NHS, masks, the outdoors, the hug and so on. It’s evocative and probably evokes grief about what we have lost and the pain of isolation and so on. But it also engenders a glimmer of hope, of looking beyond, of looking forward. Not everyone will be ready for that but we have tried to look in both directions. We also hoped to give people something enjoyable in Ealing that feels festival like as a piece of public art that could be viewed outside with people feeling safe to go and look at it. Also for us as photographers, taking photos is deeply personal as a way of paying attention, of awareness and reflection so I think it is also a collective group processing of what we have noticed so it is also significant for us as a community. In terms of achievement we are also absolutely delighted that we have pulled off something on this scale. We have done exhibitions but this has stretched us in every way and to see it finally up and looking so terrific has been almost overwhelming. We keep thinking ‘how did our little photography group do that?’ Something has truly been Unlocked.