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.
Jaskirt Boora is an award-winning visual artist whose work focuses on a socially engaged practice, working with local communities in the West Midlands. She is interested in celebrating untold stories while exploring visual representations of gender, ethnicity and place through portrait and documentary photography.
In view of the impact of COVID-19, Boora has a renewed sense of purpose to focus on creating work that can have a positive effect in her communities. Current projects include ‘I Am Free’, a collaboration with women's refuge Birmingham Crisis Centre, and the Arts Council England funded ‘People, Place and Sport’. Both projects include a new series of workshops that centre the stories of women and young girls.
Boora’s work has been exhibited nationally, including Wembley stadium and Manchester’s people museum, and has been widely published, including in The Sunday Times. Boora has also been the recipient of awards including the Photo Imaging Council Award and the Magnum & Ideas Tap Sports Award.
How are you adapting your work during the pandemic?
The pandemic has meant I have had to be more vigilant in my planning and when out on shoots to ensure I keep to Government guidelines and social distancing. When I made the Birmingham Lockdown Stories work in the summer 2020, and the Gearing Up: Behind the Frame work in December, I conducted all the photo shoots and interviews outdoors. This will continue for the foreseeable future until restrictions are eased, hopefully by the summer.
Workshops are the other element of my practice that have had to adapt, and now are done solely via Zoom instead of in person. I had thought workshops over Zoom would be really difficult in getting a positive response from participants, but the opposite has been true. Most people have enjoyed meeting new people and engagement has been really high. I don’t think Zoom can ever replace the in person social interaction you get, but it has been a good way of interacting and working with vulnerable groups this year.
Has the new context inspired you to try anything innovative that you haven’t tried before? If so, what?
I have been inspired to start new collaborations and connect with people whose work I have admired on Instagram this year, and perhaps if it hadn’t been for lockdown this might not have happened. I’m in the early stages of a new collaboration with Shaista Chishty to make a zine celebrating South Asian women in the arts, all being done online, which has been a new way of making work for me. We met through our work with GRAIN Projects and Work Show Grow (an online creative school) we’re both part of.
I have also become part of a collective of artist mothers, POST Photo collective, exploring a dialogue of photography and motherhood. Again, another digital connection that has happened out of lockdown. Zoom has made it a more level playing field to work with people in different parts of the country and fit it around your family time. I’m hoping some of these positive aspects of flexible working will remain to continue making opportunities accessible in the future.
What are your current and future plans for making, showing, distributing work?
I’m currently juggling a few projects and two from last year are on show. Birmingham Lockdown Stories is currently showing at Format Festival 2021 and Gearing Up: Behind the Frame is exhibited outdoors along the Coventry Canal.
Birmingham Lockdown Stories is the first book I’ve published, and I’ve definitely got the bug to make more! The next book I am hoping to publish is the current work I’m doing with women’s refuge Birmingham Crisis Centre. Through a collaborative process with the women taking part in the workshops we will be making work on projects of their choosing.
I want to continue making work in public spaces too, it’s something I’ve always been very passionate about, to make arts more accessible to people who may not always visit gallery spaces. I’m hoping to achieve that with my new work ‘People, Place and Sport’. I’ll be photographing portraits of local people and places involved in sports in the West Midlands.
How are you finding online life?
Online life has been a double edged sword, on one hand I’ve become part of a community of artists, more than I ever had before, but I also really miss seeing and interacting with people in the flesh now. You can only take social interaction so far online. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family again.
I have a very love hate relationship with Instagram and social media in general. I’ve found myself doom scrolling and getting lost in rabbit holes since the first lockdown, so I as much as these platforms have helped me connect with people, I also find I have to take lots of breaks from them for my mental health.
How are you procrastinating or distracting yourself from any stress?
I have two young children, 2 and 4 years old, that keep me on my toes and don’t allow my mind to wander too much. Making sure they’ve not been too affected from the various lockdowns and keeping them busy has inevitably kept me distracted from any stress or worry I’ve had.
I’ve taken up gardening and cycling since last year too, and that’s been a good distraction. I’ve also watched a lot of TV series and reading has helped me switch off too.
Being part of the Work Show Grow has been a great distraction from stress whilst meeting like-minded creatives. I’ve become part of a drawing club in the school and that’s been a lovely way to unwind on the weekend.
What advice, resources, links or projects would you like to share with other photographers?