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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
My name is Giya Makondo-Wills and I am a documentary photographer and educator working between the UK and the Netherlands. My work looks at identity, race, colonisation, the western gaze and systems of power. I hold a BA (hons) and an MA in documentary photography from the university of South Wales and as of 2021 I am also a teacher on documentary photography at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.
How are you adapting your work during the pandemic?
I think like a lot of people at first I didn't know how to adapt my work, especially early on during Covid, as it is quite collaborative and portrait-based. I also didn't quite know how to navigate making work. Because there was a lack of people commissioning work and just generally everything came to a standstill, all of my work that I had planned to do abroad had taken a back burner. But I was fortunate enough at the beginning of the pandemic to have another job which wasn't photography related.
I was working at a nursery and decided to pick up the camera in my last couple of months there and start shooting when I was on my shift. That helped me to get out of this slump of not knowing where to turn and how to make work. Now I'm slowly getting back into it and finding it a bit easier and I'm more excited about the prospect of making work. I'm now trying to experiment with different ways of working, which has also come from going into teaching. But I do think that after more than a year of being stuck inside it definitely has affected my creative process.
Are there any working methods that you envisage keeping once lockdown is over?
Less so about how I work because even when I was making work at the beginning of the pandemic I was still shooting in person. So I don't think it affected my working methods and how I'm creating work. But lockdown has made me think about how I can work and not necessarily be reliant solely on meeting people to create work. I think for me it is important to have the ability to make work in different ways so that I don't always have to rely on human connection.
What are your current and future plans for making, showing and distributing work?
I am looking forward to starting to make some new work in the next couple of weeks. I'm also going to be showing some work next year in Germany. Other than that I have recently released a book, ‘They Came From The Water While The World Watched,’ published by The Lost Light Recordings. So hopefully I'm going to be able to show that more as events start popping up again.
I ended up making the book with Lee from Lost Light Recordings during the pandemic so I was never able to sit down in his workshop and talk it through with him; it all happened over zoom calls. We started sequencing and discussing the cover and we would call back and forth to talk about the edit and texts. So it was a really unique experience for me, especially for my first book, as you have to put a lot of trust in that person and their expertise. But I was really happy as it turned out exactly how I imagined it.
How are you finding online life?
It is strange. I've done a couple of talks online over the past year or so. I also did a panel talk when I had just moved into my new apartment, and I had terrible internet. So that was not ideal! I am now also teaching partly online, which is a tad stressful. But for me the hardest thing is the excessive screen time; no one wants to spend forever online.
However, I do think is a really good way to make events a lot more accessible. It's nice when you can't be somewhere in person that you can still go to the event online. So I do hope that events continue to be accessible in this way. I know that the RPS Miniclick talks have always been quite good because they always tend to live stream the talks as they're happening in person, which I never quite understood the need for prior to the pandemic, but it makes perfect sense. Hopefully more and more people will adapt to live streaming events, but I still prefer to be there in person.
Are there any people or organisations that you'd particularly like to highlight for their interesting approach during this time?
Work Show Grow is one organisation that is fantastic. They gave me two opportunities to join, the first being their Money Workshop and the second a three month scholarship when the online school first launched. There were different lectures about writing funding for grants, how to make money as an artist, productivity, etc. It was just perfect timing to have that online community as I think artists especially were feeling very isolated. It was truly amazing and got me through this year for sure.