Since lockdown began I’ve been working from home, as I usually do, but my working hours are no longer interspersed with travel by train, car or bus to face to face meetings, workshops and other events. I am missing family and friends but it has been therapeutic to spend time in nature, probably more time alone in nature than ever before. I’m fortunate to have access to countryside near my home and I’ve been exploring most days.
My regular walk along a public footpath stretches for around three miles through woodland and farmland, it skirts a sewage works and private corridors of wilderness. There’s a stream and a waterfall, a hill and a pond, wide open spaces and narrow pathways and a few houses with private gardens.
Since March I’ve been noticing the changes, not only in nature, but the impact of social distancing. Farmers are now leaving gates open when possible, to minimise people needing to touch them. There’s a new etiquette when walking where we wait politely at some distance in order to allocate ample space for people to pass.
Residents have added rainbow pictures to say thank you to the NHS on their gates and children’s toys are perched in hedges.
In mid April new police signs appeared at intersections on the route reminding walkers to observe social distancing guidelines.
I’ve watched closely as Spring emerges and the character of my route has changed. The silhouettes of trees are transforming, blossom comes and goes and the pathways have become more verdant. Ferns are unfurling. Flowers are appearing, there’s a contrast between the vibrant yellow of fields of rapeseed and rich purples of bluebells in the woods. I’ve seen red campion, lesser celandine, cuckoo pint, wild garlic and much more, I am learning. The landscape is transformed by the quality of light at different times of day, and the weather. I have enjoyed it most visiting after rain fall which seems to add more depth and jewel like colour.
I’ve been fascinated by the lines of perspective, as expanses of land and empty pathways lead into the distance. I think I appreciate this sense of space more whilst having to spend more time indoors.
In the woodland the leaves have grown now. I like the way that the boughs and branches lean, forming an enveloping tunnel to explore.
Via Instagram I’ve been following the work of photographers who are also documenting their environments and sharing their stories during the pandemic. It’s been fascinating to see a global record of isolation emerging via the hashtags #massisolation #massisolationproject #massisolationFORMAT (in the UK) #massisolation #massisolationfi (in Finland) #massisolationirl (in Ireland) and #massisolationaus (in Australia).
The ‘Mass Isolation project’, inspired by the Mass Observation project created in the 1930s has been instigated by the organisers of the international Format Festival based in Derby. In Ireland it is being shared by Gallery of photography Ireland. There are photographers taking part across the world.
The original ‘Mass Observation Project’ was set up by a group of people in 1937 who wanted to study the everyday lives of people in Britain. They did this via a team of observers who recorded people’s behaviour in a variety of public situations via diaries and questionnaires. You can find out more via this website.
I’ll be continuing my own documentation as well as following others doing the same. If you want to join in there’s lots of opportunities, if you are on Instagram you can follow and use the hashtags that I mentioned above. Here’s a few other projects to follow and some to take part in.
I’m delighted to have my photographs included in the Obscura Chromatic project created by a group of artists based in Coventry to help inspire creativity during lockdown. Each week they are setting a different theme to respond to creatively, they will be showcasing work online and creating a collaboration with Blindspot Theatre. This week’s prompt is ‘Togetherness’, find out more via their Facebook page.
London based ‘Collective Arts’ are running a collaborative online project called ‘When we Paused’ inviting people to submit photographs, artwork and writing that explores where we can find meaning during this global pandemic.
Historic England are inviting photographic submissions to record the past week (ends today) and will be selecting 100 of the best images to showcase alongside the work of a group of selected contemporary artists. Their aim is to share experiences of lockdown and how people’s lives have been transformed. Find out more here.
Finally, a new version of the 1930s Mass Observation project continues today and anyone can take part. Each year on the 12th of May members of the public can submit an anonymised diary, find out more here.