Award-winning photographer and champion of local artists, Owen De Visser has taken it up a notch by opening an art gallery and studio, Lux Gallery, in Edgbaston Village
You might know Owen De Visser from ArtsBrum, the organisation that promotes and supports local artists, or from Birmingham Open Studios, or even his Open Mic night in Moseley. He’s a busy chap. Having had enough of rejigging the spare room for photo-shoots at home, Owen has bitten the bullet and opened a gallery and photographic studio on the bourgeoning Greenfield Crescent with neighbours such as Loki Wine, Kin and the much-anticipated, Chapter restaurant.
His original timing turned out to be less than sparkling as Covid struck just as he was about to sign the lease. Thankfully, landlords Calthorpe Estates were thoroughly understanding and put plans on hold without financial penalty. Finally open, Owen is cock-a-hoop, but it hasn’t been a straight-forward path.
A degree in Music Tech proved to be not what Owen had expected and not something he wanted to pursue, so he left. However, there was a silver lining. Part of his studies included photo editing which he enjoyed – so with a trusty digital SLR camera Owen began snapping in his spare time while working in retail. When some friends asked Owen to capture their special day, it proved to be the beginning of something a bit special.
Owen remembers: “I had a basic camera with two lenses. I learnt that weddings are largely about controlling people. I enjoyed it and more opportunities followed.” Owen’s mother is an artist and his father an author, so a creative life feels natural. Of his upbringing, Owen says: “I was raised to believe that I can be successful in anything I want to be, as long as I have passion and believe in myself.”
That belief was tested a bit after he was made redundant from two retail jobs. Owen decided to take control and grab the opportunity to do something he loved and ODV Photography was born. He turned to the Prince’s Trust Start Up business scheme which was a massive help. As well as financial support, Owen received training in how to run a business with weeks of formal tuition. Owen ran the business from home using the spare room as a studio for years, but it wasn’t the best use of his time.
He says: “I’d have to pull everything out of the spare room to see a client and then put it back together. It definitely wasn’t time efficient.” Owen photographs a wide range of subjects including events and weddings, commercial work, corporate headshots, interiors, family portraits, promo shots – again – he’s busy!
Realising there wasn’t much of a spotlight on artists in Birmingham at the time, Owen sought to change that through Birmingham Arts (ArtsBrum) which pushed art and artists in the city. He created an online shop and co-hosted events. He also founded Brum Open Studios where people can visit artists in their studios and see them work. Doing these things alongside ODV Photography meant he had three different in-boxes to tackle which didn’t really make sense, so now with Lux he’s combined everything into one.
He has 2,000 artists on his books – not all from Birmingham. Lux stocks mainly British artists and lots of local creatives plus a few from Europe. They tend to be emerging or mid-career artists and they can’t be in another gallery in the area, so it’s not work people have seen elsewhere. There’s a mix of media including jewellery from Jewellery Quarter.
Owen’s not in competition with other galleries in the city – he’s collaborative and is keen to see a thriving arts scene – more galleries not less to benefit everyone. He does feel residents of Brum could do more to support art though. He says: “London has hundreds of galleries, but not so in Birmingham. In a city with so many great creatives and different pockets each with a unique style and identity, we could probably do better.”