Our COVID-19 Case Studies are a new strand on our blog exploring 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.
Hayleigh Longman is a photographic artist based in London, UK. She graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2018. Hayleigh’s work contains stories of personal encounters, intermingled with her own experiences. Working with socially engaged projects through Open Eye Gallery whilst living in Manchester she has adapted to different ways of working with people which has fed into her approach to portraiture. Her work is poetic and shaped by her relationship to her subjects.
How are you adapting your work during the pandemic?
My initial reaction was to use this time to do all the tasks that slipped through the net, for example clearing out old hard drives and making a new edit of the work I made on a trip last year that I never got around to. At first this was a good coping mechanism, but after a while it wasn’t keeping me grounded. So, I decided to allow myself to experiment with new things, to create momentarily. To see how I reacted with this time, as it will always be something we look back on. I have begun filming small moments, which is a new way of working; also collecting things whilst out of the house on walks and experimenting with still life arrangements in the garden, made up of an old table I dug out from the shed and things I have found in the loft.
My personal project focuses on my relationship with my mum, so I have been spending some time returning to where I left off with this, experimenting with different makeshift setups in the garden with different materials as a backdrop to perform some self-portraits.
I wouldn’t really say that I’m adapting, I am more creating work with a feeling to do so. It’s autobiographical of a moment in history. Whichever we choose to create in this time we will always reference back to being in lockdown and that in itself is interesting to me. Especially in years to come when we reflect on it and see what the outcome is.
How are you coping?
I mean who is coping. It’s a difficult time and it’s nothing like we are used to!
I am experiencing good and bad days, trying to reduce how much I watch the news and spend online. I don’t have a strict routine like most people; however, I’m discovering what works best for me. I have been spending isolation at my mum’s, so I am out of my normal environment but trying to keep busy. I write small lists for each day and set out time to work and then also to just do whatever I feel. As a house, we’ve been taking turns to cook for one another, playing cards and de-cluttering things around the house. Getting out the house going for a daily walk in the woods and riverside in the morning or of an evening is something that’s been helping me cope a lot. I feel like I have paid so much more attention to nature and the surrounding of where I am staying than I would do normally as I am no longer running past them to catch a morning train.
What are you current and future plans for making, showing, distributing work?
I had plans to show at Photofusion, as I was selected for a group show there before Christmas last year, and also for the Brighton Photofringe this year, which have both been postponed due to the pandemic. However, I’m still in touch with both organisers and looking at ways to make things work. As we have already seen a lot of art platforms take to online extremely well, with live talks and virtual exhibitions, I think we will all continue to adapt to this way of working for a while and do what we can to keep one another engaged.
Experimenting with new ways to share work digitally and online is seeming to be the way forward at the moment. As part of Photofusion’s youth-led group Sorry2AnnoyU, we have had to cancel a lot of our plans we had for the launch of the collective; however we are working towards things digitally now and putting new ways of working in place. Planning workshops via Zoom and Teams is new to all of us, but we are trying our best to adapt to the situation and make it just as beneficial as real life workshops. We are aiming to keep our audience connected and give those who are taking part in the workshops an experience which is beneficial to them. It’s a challenge to feel the same way about delivering a workshop online of course as you lose the sense of connectivity you would when working face-to-face, but we are trying to work our ways around this, and to give those participating an enjoyable experience. We don’t want to postpone or cancel any more events or projects we have planned.
How are you procrastinating or distracting yourself from any stress?
When feeling stressed, I have been using the free time to communicate with family and friends. Sounds simple, but before lockdown I wasn’t too good at keeping in touch with people, so it’s been really nice to ring my nan or friends and have lengthy phone calls and discuss how we’re all feeling. As that is what it boils down to at the moment, we are all moving through this pandemic together. Some days, your good days will be others’ weak days, and it's key to stay connected, talk about how the news and restrictions are affecting us, as it’s not what we are used to and there’s no right way to react to these huge changes.
Are there any working methods that you envisage keeping once the lockdown is over?
Although connecting digitally seemed a little unnatural to begin with, I do think that Zoom meetings and interview activities will be something that will be part of my way of working. I have surprised myself with how many people I have connected with and maybe not have had the chance to in person due to location or busy schedules. I think catching up with people this way will continue after lockdown as it seems to be a really productive way of talking about work, sharing screens and staying focused in critiques. Additionally to that, I think overall the lesson to slow down is what I have taken away from lockdown. Although that is easy to say in hindsight, there will be a time, even if it feels far away right now, where life will get busy again. I think the opportunity to have the time to do things such as research lots of different recipes and cook for long lengths of time or walk for hours has been something I have become so alive to. The funny thing is there was nothing stopping me from doing either of them before, it just took things to slow down for me to realise the enjoyment you can get out of them and how doing something so simple can be so fulfilling.
For more of Hayleigh's work: