A second group of participants have added to a photographic archive of life during and after lockdown through the New Parameters project.
The project brought together a group of people from across the region to explore how photography captured life in Northern Ireland during and after the Troubles before empowering the group to capture their own lives through a turbulent period of lockdown.
Photographer Bill Kirk offered his experiences of capturing life through the 70s and 80s, offering participants some similarities between today's restrictions and those imposed throughout history.
Celebrated photographer Christopher Barr acted as a mentor, leading an online master class and providing feedback on submitted imagery. Participants also had the opportunity to explore the extensive photography collections at National Museums NI.
Photographer Kate Nolan also presented her body of work Lacuna to the group, which explores the impact of partition on children living in border counties.
The group then came together to share photographs and stories from their time in lockdown, touching on themes such as isolation, community spirit and the changing face of society.
Although the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is a single disease, the global responses, like human emotions, have been varied. Some people and governments reacted swiftly and decisively, while others persist in a state of denial. Interventions have affected people differently — across all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic inequalities. But most work hard to persist living, by adapting and accepting the seriousness of the pandemic. We seek a return to the familiar routines of schooling, work, shopping, and socialising. Someday we may be able to do all that we did before, without regard to social distancing, face coverings, and incessant hand hygiene. Maybe not.
During lockdown as I walked the roads in my local area, I noticed afresh the quiet contemplative mood of the border roads and landscapes of South Armagh. A mood which is sometimes at odds with the impression of the area, and its infamy for smuggling and diesel laundering. I also noticed that the roads were peaceful and how nature continued to flourish, even in a pandemic. My father is an 81-year-old farmer, who still farms in and around these roads. I drew parallels with the beautiful landscape and roadways with the endurance of nature, which was similar to my father's compulsion to keep working the land and tending to cattle during lockdown. I took some portraits of him on the farm and his routine and demeanour, among nature and in the fields was contemplative and even meditative at times. My father's resilience is reflective of the nature he works in, and how the seasons continue onwards regardless. If we look close enough, nature and the countryside can provide us with the optimism that this global crisis shall too pass.
I leaned into making purely documentary photographs. As with many people I found it hard to focus in lockdown and the uncertain climate that has followed as lockdown has begun to ease. Trying to capture interesting moments as their own experience and narrative kept me making pictures. The photos I’ve taken have become a personal journal of experiences at this time. I hope if other people see the pictures, they might install a sense of solidarity with people that have had similar experiences. From cooking more, reconnecting with family with newfound free time and celebrating milestone events within the confines of what’s required to stay safe and well in a challenging and uncertain time.
The first pictures are some impressions from Covid19 testing in the organisation I work and volunteer in. All of the staff got tested, it was a bit strange. Strange as we have a test, strange as in seeing the locations used for it- which usually have a different purpose and strange that this is actually happening, and we all are under a global pandemic which is a wee bit uncomfortable as well. I have also been looking at small businesses, a lot of them tried really hard to continue with business as usual, changed bits and pieces, had to close temporarily or some even forever. I was in a Waterstone bookstore 3 weeks ago, and the moment I stepped in, I realised how much I actually missed it. It was the same when I was in the second-hand bookstore- Keats and Chapman. I asked if I could take some pictures. He even showed me some pictures from his time in the arcade before the fire destroyed it. It shows that all businesses have had to adjust to these current times.
I chose to focus on a local day centre, Glenshane Care Association, for adults with learning and/or physical disabilities where I volunteer and show the impact lockdown has had. In recent years we have focused on raising our profile in the community - much of this has been done through increased engagement on social media. The photos and videos of service users have been an effective way of breaking down barriers, increasing inclusion in the local community and beyond, showcasing the work of the centre, and thus helping to ensure vital funding. Lockdown has stopped this in its tracks. Life for service users and their families have been hugely impacted without the centre being open for opportunities for members, and respite for carers.
I wanted to give a sense of something hovering in the atmosphere that is unknown. It can’t be seen, and nobody knows where it exists, but it has caused devastation to all aspects of life. It’s more about a personal response to the pandemic.
I am an early adopter. Some weeks before most others, I could see the roll out of COVID from a comfortable distance and decided to take a few steps to be ready for the unknown. When I was twelve, my father prepared for the worst by buying full cases of canned vegetables, breakfast cereal and tinned fruit from a wholesaler, stashing them in the cupboard under our stairs. Now it appeared to be my turn to protect my family and take steps to prepare. Our daughter Natalie works providing care in the community, calling with many elderly, vulnerable people daily. Did I say how proud I am of Natalie? Despite in-car picnics at the beach, nightly Facetime sessions with our grandchildren, and time spent in our garden, my isolated wife’s most pressing need was real squeezy hugs from Charlie, Kieran and Chloe. Having avidly watched the falling infection rates reported for our health trust and local hospital admissions; we felt that the time had come for a visit. Unknown to her, we snuck the children into the back garden to be discovered, like apparitions beamed down by Scotty from alien planet in Star Trek. Cue tears and many hugs.
We started with ten people living in my boyfriend’s family’s house, jokingly calling it a ‘hippy commune’. His family of five, together with boyfriends and girlfriends and housemates, mostly having travelled back home to escape from London. Two volunteers from France and Spain who had been helping with the business before lockdown, were also unfortunately trapped due to constant cancelled flights. In May, the ten became nine, then eight, and then swiftly down to six. We’ve now spent ninety days in this large house, and now it seems quiet in comparison to how we started. I thought I would introduce you to the many animals of the commune, as I think their routine has also changed with lockdown and Covid.
Social distancing to slow the spread of COVID19 was especially hard for teenagers, many felt cut off from their friends. Missing the routine of going to school and uncertainty regarding their futures. They also faced huge let downs from graduations, sports seasons, work placements, college visits and other long-planned events which were suddenly cancelled or postponed. The photographs taken are of my 14-year-old daughter during lockdown & reflections on COVID19 and how their world is going to change as a consequence. All photographs were taken using an iPhone SE, since the use of phones has been such a vital means of communication for teenagers.
Since lockdown started, I have been walking early each morning in the immediate area around my home. After the first few days I began to take random photographs on my phone of anything which caught my eye. Something I had started to do when I completed a Camino in Spain and Portugal last year as a way of recording my journey. I shared a few of these photos on Facebook and got feedback from quite a few people of how they enjoyed them. This was particularly true from friends who were shielding and weren’t able to leave their homes and at that early stage didn’t really know when they would be able enjoy the simple pleasures of a stroll in nature again. I ended up sharing photos daily with quite a few people and it felt like I was not walking alone each morning but was like a proxy pair of eyes for those not as lucky as I.
Throughout lockdown my partner and I talked numerous times about being able to travel again. Prior to lockdown we would frequently have days away, travelling by train. Without the freedom to travel it seemed that our world had now become very small. We dreamed of being able to travel again, to escape the sense of isolation, to 'get away from it all,' even for a day. We finally decided to travel again - some three months into lockdown - now that restrictions seemed to be easing. It quickly became apparent that there was no 'getting away from it all.' The constant reminders of the pandemic were everywhere, the signs urging you to keep your distance, sanitise your hands etc. It all felt rather bleak and dystopian, all the reminders of this invisible threat. It seemed inescapable. I have sought to capture those feelings; the anxiety associated with travelling in a changed world and the ominous air created by pandemic paraphernalia and the constant bombardment of covid-related messaging.
I have been taking photos since lockdown began. I'm a complete amateur and have no training at all. My photos seem to fall into three categories. The first is nature/slowing down. The second is the unusual elements of our gatherings during lockdown whether it's picnics in the rain with far-flung friends or taking communion at home with the church service on TV. The third is curtailment and closure. As a teacher, I went into school one day during lockdown to see what the building felt like during lockdown. It was eerie, empty and echoey. I was aware at the same time that the young people were being kept out of the school in an attempt to save their lives. Their absence was palpable and made me long to hear their chattering voices and see their vibrant faces.
I have always just documented the normal, but what was normal about the lockdown, the only sense of normality was my son and keeping his normal in some way the same. So as always, I photographed him, I documented our days, our walks, our mornings, activities we got up to, food we made, jobs we were doing. I made sure he laughed and he smiled. Days didn’t really matter, we knew it was Thursday when the bin lorry or recycling truck came around and Ferdia, my son got excited as he loves trucks, so that was Thursday mornings.
Here is the beginning of a photo book for my gran niece Zadie. Zadie made a round trip from Dublin, and family met at the Nursing Home my brother is in, for his birthday. I would love to be able to capture how dreadful the experience was, having to stand outside a window that would only open slightly, further cut off by a window box sent as a gift, but no place to put it was only the easily visible stuff. The effects of Covid have been heart-breaking in different ways. I wonder what her Making the Future will be like. What age will she live to be. Birthday cards go up to 100 now. I hope her generation never have to go through what many older people have had to during this epidemic.She, like her parents, is vegan. I am optimistic that Zadie, and her generation, will create a world that is better for nature, and all of us, and, that I, will live to see some wonderful new parameters in that new world.
Very often it's easy to forget life's details, indeed it can be hard to remember many aspects of the past once time has eroded the memories. 'We take photos as a return ticket to moments otherwise gone' and that's simply what my work aims to do. The mundane, the humorous, the loneliness, the changes to normal everyday life; simple snapshots taken with my phone and then presented as an aid to memory, that's all I want to achieve.
My theme is called Waiting, the restrictions, everything stopped. No football matches to attend which I love, couldn't visit my brother's grave, took time to reflect, attended a funeral in Moy Village and everyone waiting on the street for the hearse, and then there was some hope, and things started to move again...
My images represent the journey that I took during the past few months as I found myself walking more in my local area and noticing all the things that I simply had walked past before without taking any heed of them. I now looked at my surroundings in a different way and took comfort from them. One of the big concerns for my local area was the closure of A/E due to Covid. Despite the many signs erected across the area people still continued to present themselves to an empty hospital department for treatment. During my walks I began to notice the many signs of appreciation for the NHS and I hope that the pandemic will provide the opportunity for improvements and investment in the service. For further insights into Ross’s work please see https://www.makingthefuture.eu/news/curious-participant-shares-story-of-heartbreaking-discoveries
At the start of lockdown, I dismantled my studio to bring home the essentials so I could continue to work as my studio is in a shared building. I documented this and the setting up at home. I have moved back to the studio a few weeks ago and have documented it set up again. It shows something that most would not be aware of. Most of the studio spaces have been empty for some time and were pretty much abandoned by the artists that left. It's interesting to see what they have left behind and what their spaces were like as normally I couldn't see in with their locked doors.
A lot of my work focuses on loss and grief, during lockdown there have been times when I’ve been consumed with the idea of dealing with losses throughout this time. There’s now no ‘normal’ no wakes, no funerals and no access to places of worship.