Saturday, May 16, 2020

Capturing coronavirus close to home

As a photographer driven by the desire to document the world around you, what do you do when that world shrinks? Or, as Cardiff photographer Glenn Edwards put it in a recent WalesOnline article: "This most important, horrendous story in our history was unfolding in front of our eyes but we couldn't see it, only the consequence of it, but somehow we had to record and capture the story for future generations, for history, but how?" It's a question implicitly asked by the Guardian in this article, featuring 11 photographers' responses to lockdown.

For many, the pandemic's impact has been devastating. Nadav Kander is not alone in finding that "all my projects and the work I had just absolutely evaporated". But for Newsha Tavakolian, it's imperative that photographers don't despair and down tools but instead try to kindle and pursue their creative urges: "If I can say one thing to other photographers and artists, it's that they must act before this lifestyle becomes normal. Now is the best time to do projects, because everything is new. You've got to capture that before you lose your appetite."

There are obviously severe limitations on the sort of projects that are achievable, but that isn't stopping people from (for instance) taking portraits from outside windows looking in or (like Edwards) from inside windows looking out. Only a small handful of photographers, such as Murdo MacLeod, have had access to hospital wards and been able to chronicle the horrors of life and death on the frontline; the vast majority have been stuck in and around their homes, forced by the circumstances to focus on the minutiae, "the consequence".

However, for Alys Tomlinson, at least, it's been a revelation: "After the lockdown is over, I'll probably look more towards stories around me. In the past, I've never felt that inspired by what's on my doorstep, but you don't have to go to the Amazon or Antarctica to make interesting pictures." Perhaps lockdown is making us all keener observers of our immediate surroundings.

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