On Monday 23rd March 2020, our country entered a nationwide lockdown to protect our society against COVID-19.
After several days at home, I felt that it was my role as a local photographer to document this event. I have always felt that we have a responsibility to tell our own stories and this felt especially true at this point. We were experiencing the beginning of what was likely to become one of the most significant events during our lifetimes.
Initially I began by using my daily allowance of exercise to walk through Helston, photographing the unusual sights that were gradually becoming more noticeable. This consisted mostly of posters thanking our NHS, rainbows and signage depicting COVID-19 guidance.
Whilst I was out one night, I witnessed the first ‘Clap for the NHS’ at 8pm. It was an amazing experience to see so many people all united and voicing their support for our counties hardest workers. After looking at these photographs later that night, I found it inspiring to see the individual families standing together outside their homes and felt that the photographs powerfully depicted a genuine and honest representation of local life.
As I photographed more families, the project grew and became something much larger. At the time, I had been displaying the photographs solely on my facebook page, along with a caption written by the individual family. I asked people to write about their experience and reflect on any challenges and positives they faced as individuals. If you click the photographs below you will find these captions. What was truly overwhelming, was the consistent positivity shown by my local community. Families had been given time to reconnect with each other, make bonds with newborns, provide crucial support for loved ones or vulnerable people close to them whilst also appreciating the simple things in life. Lockdown had made it clear to most what was truly important. More often than not, this was not wealth or material possessions. It was support, love, family, friends and companionship (and perhaps toilet roll, rice and pasta apparently).
I was consistently thanked for providing these photographs. A lot of families don't often get the opportunity to have a 'family portrait', especially at their home. I was also offered money for my services by several grateful families, but I felt uncomfortable taking money from people. I was well aware that a lot of people were struggling financially and I felt that the project had become more of a community driven project. it was no longer simply a service that I was providing. It was at this point that I created a fundraising page whereby any money donated would be given to our local hospital, the RCHT Charity Group. My aim was to raise £1000. Twelve weeks later, I ended the project with over £2000 in donations.
As time went on, I found it increasingly difficult to know when to bring the project to an end. It had given me a strong sense of purpose and it was genuinely endearing to meet so many lovely people and to hear their stories and witness our communities strength. However, the pandemic seemed never ending. Shooting the portraits, editing them, uploading them and organising them with the relevant captions was incredibly time consuming to undertake each day. Balancing this whilst taking care of my own family, remote teaching and completing the first year of my PGCE training remotely, began to feel like I was burning the candle at both ends. I therefore decided that the project had to come to an end and I decided to do this with a portrait of our town mayor.
I have chosen to display the portraits alongside several personal photographs, images of several daily news updates and the signs I noticed whilst walking. I feel that adding these images brings a good level of context to the portraits and provide a crucial understanding of the time period that they were taken in.
The photographs are best viewed on a laptop or desktop computer and if you click one, it will open out and display the captions collected.
Thank you to everyone who made this project possible and I hope enjoy looking through the photographs...