It’s in the postcode

Liverpool’s L8 area is celebrated in a photo exhibition, says Helen Burt

 “I am not a documentary photographer – everything I do is constructed”

Fifty-four different nationalities reside in Liverpool 8. Along Princes Road in Toxteth there is a Jewish synagogue, a Greek Orthodox Church, a mosque and a Church of England. From world champion athletes to accomplished poets, this truly diverse community is due a celebration.

A reputation of deprivation and high unemployment masks the positive side to this community. L8 Unseen is an exhibition that documents individuals who might otherwise be ignored and a testament to Othello De’Souza-Hartley’s ability to develop genuine relationships with the characters he photographs.

“I am not a documentary photographer – everything I do is constructed,” he says. “My influences come from paintings and films so I work in a much slower method. I don’t use a camera with a viewfinder to my face; I use a medium format camera so I am able to engage with my subjects, I am looking at them rather than at the camera.”

“We are hoping to achieve a renewed sense of pride in the area,”

The exhibition is a community-focused project that celebrates life within the Liverpool 8 area code. For the next few months, the Museum of Liverpool will be a place for people to share their own stories and photographs.

“We are hoping to achieve a renewed sense of pride in the area,” says Marc Boothe from B3 Media, creative producer of the exhibition. “It was a feeling of responsibility as artists to enable the community to share their story to a wider world in a way that didn’t sell them out or cheapen their amazing journeys.”

Ironically, L8 existed before Liverpool even had postcodes. The people and cultures that make up the most diverse community on Merseyside have a proud history that began more than 250 years ago. De’Souza-Hartley’s large-format portraits are located inside buildings that have interesting connections with families who were either directly or indirectly involved in supporting the Atlantic slave trade.

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In a video accompanying the images, Ann Lopez renowned throughout the community for her poetry, explains how a community is able to stay resilient through challenging times. “Keep smiling, keep your head up, keep your families together and always do what you can do for each other,” says the grandmother of 17. “That’s what makes a good community – sticking together.”

L8 Unseen is at the Museum of Liverpool ( until 6 September. The exhibition is organised in partnership with B3 Media and National Museums Liverpool and entry is free. Main picture: Tayo Aluko, Laurence Westgaph and Sugar Deen at The Athenaeum by artist Othello De’Souza-Hartley

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