What a bizarre few weeks. We’re now 30 days into official lockdown in the UK, and it feels to me like some of the paralysis of the initial days of Covid-19 has started to loosen. I’m still working as a journalist – working at snail’s pace on a number of features for Big Issue North which for the large part have nothing to do with the pandemic – and am starting to get the sense that many people are getting into a groove with this strange new normal. People I contact are responding fairly promptly for the first time in weeks. My own work pace is glacial but things are slowly getting done.
One of the ways I’ve been responding to this weirdness is to pick up my camera. Ironically I’ve found the past month an easier time than normal to be creative – despite having a three year old and a five year old in tow most of the time. I’ve been photographing the lockdown on a daily basis from their perspective. Something that has always felt uncomfortably self-indulgent to me – sharing photos of my kids and our own daily life – suddenly feels more legitimate, perhaps due to some odd journalistic psychology thing because it’s now framed within ‘a story’. Make of that what you will. These daily vignettes – which I’ve dubbed “Big Brother House” can be seen on my Instagram page.
The other way I’m documenting the lockdown is through window portraits of people living in my neighbourhood of Levenshulme. Lots of photographers are doing similar work at the moment but I love the way the glass provides a beautifully surreal visual metaphor for our current social distancing requirements. The participants have to come close to the window to make use of the light. I’m often closer to them than the permitted two metres but they’re behind glass so it’s fine. I’m making most of these during my daily outing with my kids so I have to be quick – more than three minutes and they’re bored. Some of them are on my Instagram and the full album can be seen on Facebook for the time being. This will be updated as I add more…
Last year I was lucky enough to get involved in a local arts project, in which we re-ran a collaborative project from about 20 years ago. A school near where I live, Alma Park, is a specialist centre for deaf children – with pupils travelling from across Manchester to get support with their communication needs. They spend some time in mainstream classes as well and all children in the school learn some sign language. Years ago the school was involved in a community arts project in which photographs of children’s hands signing out the name of our neighbourhood – Levenshulme – were displayed at the local train station. These were up when I moved here in 2004, but the posters were eventually taken down after suffering water damage.
In 2019 the Friends of Levenshulme Station group decided to re-run the project and invited me to take part. We decided to involve only hearing-impaired children this time and in the summer term I spent a morning shooting 11 pupils’ hands. It then took a long time to get the funding from Northern Rail and other partners which we needed to print the images onto aluminium and there have been other delays while we’ve waited for permission to get onto the platforms and install the images. But now they’re there, along with a text celebrating the existence of Alma Park School’s deaf community, which mainly local people don’t know about.
Winston Brown was refused re-entry to the UK in 2006, when he tried to board a plane at the end of a trip to Jamaica. It took his family 13 years to get him back into the country. He is one of thousands of people affected by what has become known as the Windrush Scandal – well before the creation of the so-called Hostile Environment.
Click on the image to read the story on the Big Issue North website.
There’s only a few weeks left of my Arts Council-funded Roma exhibition at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Turn Sideways in the Wind. This tells the stories of three young Roma migrants to Greater Manchester and ends on 24 April. Editing the work and putting together the show was a huge learning experience and I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity. It was also really great to see the project participants look at the work on the walls. If anyone is in the Greater Manchester area over the coming weeks and fancies a look, more information about the gallery can be found here. It’s right next to Salford Crescent train station, just a few minutes from Manchester city centre.
Thanks to all who made the effort to come to the gallery on 12 December and to the folks at Salford Museum who have made it look so good. It has been ace to see this work hanging on a wall and feedback from the two participants (of three) who have seen it has been extremely positive, which means more than anything else to me. The exhibition is on until 24th April, and entry is free of charge.
A lovely piece about my exhibition, which opens at Salford Museum and Art Gallery this Saturday and runs until April 24.
Exciting news – I have been awarded Arts Council support towards an exhibition of some of my Greater Manchester Roma work, which will take place at Salford Art Gallery from December to February. The same body funded the shooting of this project so it’s brilliant news that they are also happy to support the show. More on this in due course..
I’ve neglected my site massively the past nine months – but there’s a good reason for it. I’ve been on maternity leave and enjoying some time out, getting to know my son Lukas. Plus the small matter of buying and moving into a new house.
I used some of my return to work days to continue writing a few bits and pieces for The Big Issue in the North, and to design a newspaper to display some work produced for the Roma Matrix project that I was involved in last year. I’m told that went down a storm at some European Commission events.
I am now working again so please get in touch if I can help you. As well as taking writing and photography commissions, I will be doing some lecturing from September and will have a small exhibition of my Greater Manchester Roma work at Salford Art Gallery from December.