An abandoned face mask. An empty basketball court. A couple in a cramped bedroom, together but a million miles apart.
These are just some of the striking images to emerge from the first project of our new ‘Beyond Us’ initiative, run in partnership with Ravensbourne University London – one of the leading institutions for digital, design and media studies – and now live on our Instagram feed.
The photographers, all students at Ravensbourne, were responding to a brief to capture images of life during lockdown. Starting in the dark days of February 2021, we set them the challenge of giving us a window into their worlds in just five images. They could photograph any subject – people, places, things – just as long as it encapsulated the experience in some way.
The best photos, as judged by our Executive Creative Director, Dom Goldman, former photography student and Delivery Lead, Maddy Macrae, and picture editor/creative consultant Marian Paterson, would feature in our online exhibition and one student would win a summer internship.
Looked at individually, the images are moving, beautiful and witty, revealing a group of talented photographers. As a whole, our ‘The Pandemic Through Your Eyes’ exhibition paints a picture of a nation in an isolation that is anything but splendid.
Nearly a year after the first lockdown, a sense of ennui is one key theme. It comes through in images like Chiara Spampinato’s shot of dogs who’ve spent too much time on a sofa (or is it a sofa that’s spent too much time with dogs on it?); and in Kai Eves-Hollis’s portrait of a midwife contemplating yet another day as one of the country’s heroic frontline workers.
For others, another extended period of lockdown seems to have engendered their subjects with a sense of separation – a man using his T-shirt to hide his expression in a portrait by Alexandra Komaromiova, for example, or the person photographed by Alisha Vital, his view of the world obscured by a closed window and a pair of net curtains, his dressing gown hood up for added protection.
Then there’s an almost unbearable sense of what’s been lost during this time. Freshly dug graves as far as the eye can see in one photo by Joe O’Sullivan, or Zayd Rafi’s more abstract take – a cardigan and face mask which are worn by a body no longer present in the image.
A different kind of loss is felt in Ivana Havlikova’s winning photograph – a poignant image of her sister and niece cuddling each other joyfully. It should be the kind of snap that’s only of interest to the family in it – except that the photographer isn’t in the room with the subjects, it’s all taking place on a video call.
We urge you to take a look for yourselves. It’s a chance to see life during the pandemic beyond the stories which appeared in the media, and to discover some photographers whose work is already incredibly promising, even at this early stage.
As the winner, Ivana is set to join us for a summer internship, which will be built to suit her career ambitions. Ironically, before she knew about this achievement, she pointed out in the blurb accompanying her submission: “The pandemic has changed everything. It opened the doors for some opportunities and shut the doors for others. I think the world will never be the same again.”
View the full exhibition as it goes live at @beyondus_stories