"Ashley has carried out his work in an exemplary fashion, using the tools of his profession to stimulate both thought and memory, the two simplest and yet equally sophisticated tools at the viewer’s disposal for living life and for making some sense of our lot."
Ian Macdonald, January 2022
On Monday 23rd March 2020, the U.K entered a national lockdown to protect our society against COVID-19.
After a week at home, I felt that it was my role as a local photographer to document this unique event and that we have a responsibility to tell our own stories, especially at this point. We were experiencing the beginning of what was likely to become one of the most significant events during our lifetimes.
I began by using my daily allowance of exercise to walk through Helston, photographing the unusual sights that were gradually becoming more noticeable such as posters thanking our NHS, rainbows and signage depicting COVID-19 guidance.
Whilst I was out one evening, I witnessed the first ‘Clap for the NHS’. It was an amazing experience to see so many people all united and voicing their support for our country’s hardest workers. I found it inspiring to see individual families standing together outside their homes and felt that a genuine and honest representation of local life was depicted in my initial photographs.
As I photographed more families, the project developed. I started displaying the photographs on my social media accounts, along with a caption written by the individual family which would reflect on any challenges and positives they experienced as individuals.
What was overwhelming, was the 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 offered payment for my photographs by several families, but I was well aware that a lot of people were struggling financially and I felt that the project had become more community driven. It was at this point that I created a fundraising page where any money donated would be given to our local hospital, The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Charity Group. My aim was to raise £1000. Twelve weeks later, I ended the project with over £2000 in donations.
I found it increasingly difficult to know when to bring the work to an end as it had given me a strong sense of purpose and the pandemic seemed never ending. I therefore decided that the project had to come to an end.
I have chosen to display the portraits alongside several personal photographs, images of several daily news updates and the signs I noticed which I feel brings context to the portraits and provide a crucial understanding of the time period that they were taken in.
Thank you to everyone who made this work possible.