In today’s blog from the frontline of the COVID crisis, we are coming a little closer to home. One of the new members of our team here at Griot is Lette Batten-Turner. She is a remarkable addition, coming from a background of study in international development and participatory communication. Lette was about to launch a project with refugees and asylum seekers, when we went into lockdown. This is the story as it stands:
The current global health pandemic, while disruptive and unpredictable, may provide an opportunity to dynamically reimagine, adapt and grow. This is not to diminish the severity of coronavirus; the impact it will have on the poor, the loss of life and the effect of illness on ourselves and our loved ones.
However, for those of us working in the creative industries and able to stay safe and well, self-isolation is a chance to pause, take stock, and imagine ways to adapt to the current climate we are living in.
Prior to the lockdown, I was in the process of organising a participatory photography project in Brighton, UK, exploring themes of home and displacement with refugees and asylum seekers. Once it became clear that social distancing was the most responsible action, the collaborative project I had envisioned was postponed for the foreseeable future.
This caused me to reflect on the themes I was interested in. The concept of ‘home’ and how we interact with spaces kept coming up. It was a viable topic to explore while in isolation!
I began self-documenting, taking daily photographs visualising my experiences of self-isolation.
I had five 35mm disposable cameras I had planned to use alongside DSLRs in my participatory photography workshops and I began to consider how they could be used to record my community’s experiences.
I live in Hanover, an area of Brighton and Hove with a famous community spirit. The ‘Hanover Community Noticeboard’ Facebook group has over 17,000 members – people who live, or once lived in Hanover. Community members offer advice and stories, the best spots for a roast and free sourdough starter kits!
In the age of COVID-19, parents are sharing learning resources for home-schooling, residents are offering free online yoga classes, buying groceries and collecting medicine for those who cannot leave their houses.
This sense of community, so integral to this area, fuelled my interest in how we are all experiencing this period of isolation alone, but at the same time together.
After proposing the project, I almost immediately received messages from around 40 people of different ages, keen to get involved.
Having distributed the five film cameras, I set up a shared platform where others could upload their photographs. The focus is not on the quality of photograph, but on creating a record of how our community came together and experienced this significant period of history in which we are all kept apart.
My interest is in how photography can be used ‘as’ social change, as well as ‘for’ social change. ‘Isolation,
In the same way that participatory photography has been shown to empower communities and individuals, exploring our experiences of self-isolation – moments of frustration, boredom, stillness and peace – and translating them into visual pieces provides a cathartic release in itself.
Over the time we are in isolation, we will be keeping a close eye on Lette’s project and the developments in Brighton and will bring you more on it, when we have it!
All images courtesy of Collette Batten-Turner.