Staying home, eating alone, communing with nature, revisiting old hobbies and taking up new ones. These things have become familiar territory for millions of us since the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country. We are indeed living through momentous times. However, it is not necessarily the endless and often contradictory government announcements we will remember from this era. Instead it is the way in which our world became confined and the small acts of human kindness from those who put themselves at the service of others.
Documenting everyday life
The act of documenting everyday life is now an acknowledged art. Photo journalists such as Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen of the Amber-Side collective elevated the practice through iconic black and white imagery of life in 1970s Byker before the tearing down of brick terraces to make way for the ‘wall’. In County Durham a collective known as Wideyed has continued to carve out a niche for compelling documentary photography with themes ranging from bicycles to beaches and agricultural shows.
Home Time is the collective’s latest community photography project, bringing together images of life in lockdown from across County Durham, captured on disposable cameras by a diverse range of people, some of whom live in care homes. The results of this crowd-sourced project are now being exhibited in large-scale format on exterior walls of public venues. This is nothing if not innovative!
The Home Time exhibition by Wideyed
If you missed the exhibition at St John’s Chapel last weekend then it’s on display in the rear garden of the Witham (Arts Centre) in Barnard Castle from 26 June to 11 July.
The exhibition tells stories familiar to many of us as we hunkered down in the dark days of January in order to avoid catching or spreading a novel coronavirus that is now rampant across the globe changing its genetic makeup as governments fail to keep up with its nimble opportunism.
What’s your favourite chair?
Each of the Home Time participants were asked to respond to simple prompts such as ‘what’s your favourite chair’ and ‘what’s the view from your window’? A hairdressing stool chimed with me, whilst the little dog sitting on a chair patiently waiting for the next treat will melt every heart. Dogs, cats, horses and even a chicken feature profusely in the vignettes of everyday life.
But there is melancholy too in the table set for one and the painted stones on the garden bench bearing the words ‘Be Happy’. It has been tough and we certainly need reminding that those of us who made it through the pandemic thus far have something to be grateful for. The people who looked after our well-being are local heroes and some of them feature in the exhibition, chosen by the photographers to be captured for posterity in powerful portraits set against the Durham landscape.
Well done to Wideyed and everyone involved, and also the County Durham Community Foundation for supporting professional community artists during this difficult period. The wolf is never far from the door if you work in the cultural sector and we will need our artists and creatives even more as we try to make sense of a post pandemic world.