Liam Bluck
Liam Bluck, BA (Hons) Photography degree student
Photo credit by Jacquie Yates

A BA (Hons) Photography degree student at University Centre St Helens has been invited to showcase his work at a special exhibition at Chirk Castle in Wrexham.

Liam Bluck, 34, a former security guard from Warrington, will exhibit a selection of poignant photographs, capturing the people who give up their time to volunteer at National Trust sites across the UK, including Chirk Castle, Little Moreton Hall and Quarry Bank Mill.

As a National Trust member, Liam and his family enjoyed exploring some of the nation’s most celebrated heritage sites. Liam was inspired by the people and the places, and decided to use this to form part of the final year project for his degree, celebrating the inspirational volunteers. It was following some research and watching a piece on Sky Arts that brought together his project idea for university. Liam explains: “A volunteer at Lyme Park in Stockport was given a piece of artwork to commemorate her 40 years of long-standing volunteering service. I started to think about what motivates people to volunteer – I was curious as to why some people do and some people don’t. So as part of my research, I approached several National Trust properties to speak to their teams.” This in turn led to Liam undertaking some voluntary work himself, photographing the monthly 10k run at Chirk Castle.

During the project, Liam photographed volunteers across a range of National Trust properties, exploring why they volunteer, capturing their story behind the photograph. The first portrait that he shot in the series was Barry Keyworth, who for many years, had his own business in the textile industry and took his first volunteer role at Quarry Bank Mill. Following 27 years at Quarry Bank Mill, Barry decided it was time for a change and began volunteering at Little Moreton Hall where his love of history fuels his passion for volunteering. Volunteer, Paul Clay is photographed on the grand staircase situated in the turret of Chirk Castle. Paul used to design packaging for branded products but has spent the last 5 years volunteering at Chirk Castle as a room and tour guide. Volunteering was initially intended to keep him busy during retirement, but his love for the castle and the role itself continues to inspire him.

Liam said: “I was so inspired by the unique and diverse group of people who volunteer their time at the National Trust - people from a range of backgrounds and occupations including former chief executives, retirees and students. It was such an interesting piece of work for me to carry out and I am looking forward to hearing the feedback from visitors to the exhibition.”

Rachel Coman, volunteer and community involvement officer at Chirk Castle said: "Working with Liam has enabled us to start sharing the personal stories of our team at Chirk Castle... their motivations, heart and soul, through the medium of photography. Liam achieved this through getting to know each person, putting them at ease and valuing their thoughts, opinions and beliefs. His passion and commitment to working with the team and producing high-quality images is amazing and we are confident this will be the first of many occasions you hear the words ‘Liam Bluck, professional photographer’.”

Liam decided to further his education after building a career in the security industry after work dipped, and providing for his family became a struggle. His wife, Trina, encouragingly pushed Liam to retrain for a new career in something that he loved and with her support, he approached St Helens College and undertook the Access to HE course in Art and Design. Upon the successful completion of this, he progressed on to the BA (Hons) Photography degree at University Centre St Helens.

Following completion of his degree Liam hopes to fulfil his ambitions of becoming a commercial photographer.

The BA (Hons) Photography degree at University Centre St Helens covers a whole host of specialist disciplines within the field of photography, including analogue and digital processes and a hybrid approach to using both. The degree is designed to develop technical photographic knowledge and critical understanding, in order to secure work within the industry. Find out more at uc.sthelens.ac.uk.

The free exhibition opens at Chirk Castle in Wrexham on Saturday 25th February through to Thursday 16th March and is open daily. More information can be found by visiting www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chirk-castle.

Poignant photography exhibition shines light on National Trust volunteers