IAP A5: reflection before tutor feedback

This project began as an attempt to record the look and feel of the lockdown period, and gradually became more of a personal expression of the isolation and dislocation that I experienced during those first 7 weeks when the world seemed to stop in its tracks. Does it succeed in communicating something of those feelings, the strangeness of that time? I find it hard to know. Things that seemed strange at first feel normal now. Perhaps I’ll only be able to tell much later when I look back on the images from a distance.

I shot a huge quantity of images for this project – more than 750 – and did not have a prior feel for the kind of images I was looking for. Basically I used my camera and phone to examine and explore the new situation I found myself in, and this resulted in a wide range of different image styles and subjects. As I explained in an earlier post, I processed each day’s images as I went along, and shifted the ones that resonated most into a running but ever-changing shortlist.

At first there was an emphasis on the visible outward signs of pandemic – the empty public spaces, the behavioural prompts that suddenly appeared everywhere, queues at supermarkets, police patrolling the beaches – but these quickly became very familiar and lost their potency as signifiers of strangeness. Nevertheless I felt I wanted to retain one or two of these kinds of image to anchor the series in the pandemic event.

The final edit starts with a graffiti work that appeared within days of lockdown and was almost immediately painted over by another artist. The buildings in the left background are part of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, currently undergoing extensive redevelopment. For me this image captures the dissonance between the surreal, almost game-like experience of the early days of lockdown and the grim reality that was already coming into play.

The second image mirrors the graffiti hoarding and is the one “sign of the time” that I decided to retain. Images 3 and 4 show the oddly empty public spaces along the seafront area, the heavy clouds and bird respectively bringing a sense of foreboding into these usually bustling locations.

Images 5 and 6 are intended to convey the sense of confinement that soon became the dominant mood of the early lockdown weeks, while 7 and 8 illustrate the way we learned to become more self-sufficient – in these cases careful meal-planning and building up a stock of meals in the freezer in case of incapacity, and the use of lolly sticks to make a splint for a broken toe.

Images 9 and 10 return to the theme of confinement and isolation, expressed in the physical barriers (window/fire escape) to the outside world. The window/barrier metaphor is repeated in image 11, while its mirror image 12 suggests a lifting of the gloom as it becomes clear that the most intense period of lockdown is giving way to a less onerous version. The final pair of images are perhaps overly metaphorical, showing my foot stepping out and an empty Corona bottle in a waste bin.

I’ve enjoyed becoming more familiar with my Panasonic Lumix GX-9 during this period. Although I’ve had it for a year, it’s taken me a while to feel completely comfortable with it as all my previous cameras have been Canons, but I now feel I know my way around it and can get it to do what I want it to do. The images I took for this project on my phone were of course much smaller and less technically intentional, which is probably why I’ve only included two phone images in the final edit.

I feel that this series demands a minimalistic no-frills presentation to reflect the sparseness that has been seen across visual media during this time as we’ve become accustomed to seeing everything from meetings to yoga classes to news broadcasts and tv programmes via Zoom from makeshift studios. I would therefore intend to present it for assessment as straightforward A3 prints, in pairs/diptychs as above. Given that assessment is now entirely digital in format, I’m unsure as yet whether this will entail making the prints and presenting photos of the prints, or simply presenting them directly as digital “prints”, or some other solution (a virtual gallery, perhaps). I will leave that decision until after I’ve received tutor feedback.