Our COVID-19 Case Studies explore the different ways the photographic community is working and staying connected through the pandemic. If you would like to submit a Case Study get in touch via email@example.com for more information.
Denise Hall is an amateur photographer based in the North of England. She enjoys taking photographs of nature and the landscape around her and more recently has begun to take self-portraits, documenting her time spend alone in lockdown.
Has the new context inspired you to try anything innovative that you haven't tried before? If so, what?
I started to photography myself every day to create a visual diary, which is something that I would never have done before - to photography myself in a personal way and put the images on social media for the world to see. When I created the images it was my idea to place them on to Instagram one day at a time, after I received the news that I was no longer on furlough. The idea behind this was to try and make people aware of how long I had been alone for; 78 days. The Covid diary lead to my Covid characters. I suppose inspiration for the characters must have come from the project that the Getty Museum ran for people to recreate a piece of art in a photo during the pandemic . I was inspired to create characters such as Red Riding Hood, Mary Poppins, Poison Ivy etc. And so it began. I had to think of a character, research it and find an image that I could recreate at home, using what I had in my wardrobe or shed. Though I did make a few small purchases here and there such as a couple of cheap wigs, green tights (poison ivy) and face paint (wicked witch of the west).
Are there any working methods that you envisage keeping once the lockdown is over?
I kept a notebook where I would write down any characters that I thought I could produce, what resources I would need and I listed what activities I could or would be doing. It really does help to plan and keep track of what you have created and what you need to do.
How are you coping?
To be honest I actually coped better than I thought I would. I took to my photography, walking, DIY and keeping in contact with people via whatever means. There were days though, when in the thick of it I wondered how long was it going to last? Some times were spent crying! Now I have returned to work full time, my days are full of a different kind of stress but I have found that I am actually really missing my photography, the humour, the challenge and creating that enjoyment for others. I feel lost without it but time is an issue now.
How are you procrastinating or distracting yourself from any stress?
It’s funny really as I didn't procrastinate at all, quite the opposite. That is what my projects are for – distraction, but to also to challenge myself. It took me out of my comfort zone, gave me something to do, something to research, discuss, create and have fun with. The best part though and what I didn't appreciate was that the characters project would provide amusement for others. That was an unexpected pleasure which spurred me on to create more. Don't get me wrong it was a really stressful time and there were moments where I wondered how long it was going to go on for. It seemed like an eternity spending day after day alone. But I am where I am now and I realise how important my project was for my own mental health as well as making me aware of my own capabilities.
What are your current and future plans for making, showing, distributing work?
I have approached Photo North to see if they would be interested in showing some of the images in their exhibition next year. Research for other exhibitions is ongoing. I am also currently researching the best place to get a book printed for the character photographs and have been trying to find a charity who could, or would like to, use some of the character photographs for free to help raise funds. Perhaps through making and selling a calendar? I had been invited to a couple of local photography groups to talk about the characters and share my story. I hope more of these will filter through in the future.
What advice, resources, links or projects would you like to share with other photographers?
My advice would be to give your ideas and thoughts a chance. Just go with the flow, try your idea and if it doesn't work out its ok, but if it does work out, that's great! I would have never thought that I could have produced some of the photographs that I did, especially indoors with no lighting set up. Try your hand at some general techniques such as cloning or double exposures. Double exposures can be created with film cameras as well as digital or by using software such as Photoshop if your digital camera doesn't have the facility. Reproduce some of the classics- The Red Pepper by Edward Western, The Fork by André Kertész, or perhaps Glass Tears by Man Ray to name a few. You never know what you will find and again, it might lead onto other ideas.
You can also explore art and art projects, such as the Getty Museum etc, or get out in nature. These are other avenues where ideas may come from. It’s funny, as just over twelve months ago I would never had said what I am about to say now, but spend time alone! When this was forced on me because of the pandemic it turned out that I wasn't distracted by my daily life and the usual techniques I put in place to relieve my loneliness. I had to face that time and it was then that my projects were born. Also speak to people; when I spoke to my friends about my covid characters project they invariably suggested a few characters that I could potentially create and often they would come up with someone who I wouldn't have thought of!
Are there any people or organisations that you would like to particularly highlight for their interesting approach during this time?
These are the ones I know about, I am sure there are many more: Claire Armitage, Getty Museum Recreating Art Challenge, Ciara Leeming, Format Festival online, @massisolationformat, Hold Still - National Portrait Gallery.