The Patron of the Royal Photographic Society, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and her husband are heavily involved in the campaign ‘Heads Together, which unites eight mental health charities including ‘Mind’. With their help and that of the celebrities who are now talking about their own experiences the concept of exercising and nurturing the mind is fast becoming as natural to us as it is to exercise and nurture the body.
As a photographer who has PTSD, there are processes ingrained in me that I naturally turn to when faced with an overwhelming situation as I was at the start of total lockdown in England during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. I took a photograph, a mere snap, just a few hundred yards from my house and posted it to the Facebook group SheClicks which had a membership of 6,500 female photographers (7800 at the time of writing in October 2020). From the responses I received, I soon realised that I was not alone in how I was feeling. We wanted to connect with photography, no matter who or where we were in the world. This is that first post:
One Photograph A Day
One photograph a day. Post the day and your photo in the comments below… Just for fun. The goal is just to be cheery, to be positive, to give us something else to do; for us to focus on. To not be alone!!!! No doom or gloom please. Nothing to do with anything happening out there in THE real world, just in YOURS. Come on peeps. It’ll make me smile. And I’ll try to make you smile too. I’ll start us off with my ‘Dancing Dove!’ ♬ ♬
Asked by Angela Nicholson, the SheClicks group’s Founder, if I would run a project as a Unit for the group on a daily basis, I didn’t hesitate. With a camera in our hands, photographers have the tools to take some control in these challenging times. The professionals amongst us were unable to work because of the restrictions; many were self-employed and financially challenged; all of us were isolated from our loved ones and support networks.
Nature remained accessible in some form or other to all of us (even if just from the top story of an apartment block). The flora and fauna along with static and inanimate objects (like buildings, both inside and out) anything that distracted us would help us control our emotional response to the virus by being good targets for us to concentrate on. Giving us a way to escape from what was happening in the world and relief from the fear of overload; helping to keep us grounded.
There was a necessity for me to show how our shrinking world could become more interesting. Many had no difficulty; others were challenged – needing the excitement of exotic holidays or snow-capped mountains to trigger their photographic creativity. But in this, our small world that stretched around the globe, there were no rules. I simply encouraged everyone to share a photograph a day with the group, whether taken on that day or one they sourced from their archives, with a simple Conversation Starter piece and an accompanying photograph
A personal lockdown project of mine involved dusting off my old lacrosse stick to throw a ball with a wire attached high in the trees to get a bird feeder in the ideal position for photographing small birds. A process I shared with the group. On 6 May I the resulting photograph that was more Conceptual than Wildlife, was entitled ‘Onwards and Upwards’. Commemorating the 75th anniversary of VJ Day just 2 days later, the emphasis of the posts had changed to include more reality; to focus on The Arts in Crisis, commerce and industries that were adversely affected… and the changes that were yet to come. Although I was creating the posts on a daily basis — or perhaps because of that — the evolution of the project makes it a unique timeline to look back on.
My last post and its accompanying conceptual photograph, reflected the moment England moved from being between those four walls of our total lockdown to liberty, albeit a restricted one and acknowledged our key workers. It was now up to us to play by the rules, even though we didn’t necessarily like the game that we had to play.
31 May 2020
Behind Closed Doors is a compilation of several photographs with the open doors and welcoming ‘Careworker’ in the middle of us all. I had taken her photograph at the church hall at the end of my street, just a few days before posting. While we had all dutifully retreated behind closed doors she had been tirelessly and quietly helping our council in supporting our homeless to feed and clothe themselves.
Heading up the post is my Conversation Starter…
‘There are often several ways to say goodbye. I have three choices here, on the last day of these posts. Another sunset… because we love them; something funny… because it is good to laugh, especially when times are hard; or, a reality check. And in all honesty, with what is happening right now, I think that is what we need.
While those doors have been closed, others have been open – helping us all. Now we are opening our doors we need to be even more careful than before. My Conversation Starter for today is ‘strengthʼ ‘compassionʼ,
‘humanityʼ, anything along those lines…’
Hundreds of photographs have been posted and commented on in the three months; the finished Units totalling 900 pages. Each photograph now holds another layer of meaning by being posted during Covid that sit alongside the emotions originally felt by the creator or owner. The combination has helped us to counteract the stark reality, the negativity and trauma of the real life situation we found ourselves in – which, let’s face it, still doesn’t feel real at all!
My personal experiences are included in ‘The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project’.
Between Four Walls and Behind Closed Doors have been chosen for a joint exhibition in the USA entitled ‘The Ballad of Our Changing World’.