Our COVID-19 Case Studies are a new strand on our blog celebrating 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.
Rebecca Burns is a conceptual photographer, who bases her practice on in-depth research about topics that usually relate to her past experiences and childhood. Being born in Ireland had a profound impact on her work, as she explores her background and surroundings. Social engagement is at the heart of her practice as she uses her medium to explore complex and often contested subject matter. Through a belief that communication leads to understanding, she aims to open a dialogue with her photographs.
Rebecca is currently working as a Teaching Assistant at Manchester School of Art, completing a Cultural Digital Designer residency with Abraham Moss school and Manchester Art Gallery and a founding member of Pending.
How are you keeping yourself busy?
Myself and seven other photography graduates created a group called Pending in November of last year. We actively moved away from the idea of the collective as we felt it was closed off and elitist in a lot of ways. Pending is concerned with making art accessible and inclusive to artists of all abilities, especially within the local area. We are establishing ourselves as a creative hub of shared knowledge and support.
We feel there is a lack of communication between students and graduates and we aim to bridge that gap. It allows for an element of mentorship from our side, whilst we stay motivated and inspired to make work off the back of these interactions with students. This lull in practice is something a lot of artists seem to experience post-uni, and so our way of tackling this is to stay more engaged with that uni process.
One way in which we do this is by setting mini briefs. Our most recent brief was created by a word generator which gave us ‘Bronze’. We had two weeks to produce some work inspired by this word; some of us took it literally and others more metaphorically. After seeing its success in terms of it pushing us to make imagery, something a lot of us hadn’t done in months, we created the open call. We aimed to create a zine which would collate our images with the submitted ones furthering this sense of community and collaboration, but then lockdown began.
Being quarantined has been meant the physical zine has been put on hold and things have had to be transferred into a virtual form. I have done this through the website design, where viewers can scroll through Bronze entries side by side with our blog posts, to create the conversational element that we intended for the zine.
As a group we have been using Zoom to meet as we are missing out on our usual biweekly get togethers. I think the quarantine has been helpful in that way as it has kind of forced us to get the website up and running; before we were maybe more wrapped up in preparing for those meets. I would say we have put more effort into our online presence now, which is definitely a positive that we can take from all of this.
Has the new context inspired you to try anything innovative that you haven’t tried before? If so, what?
I work in hospitality on the weekends, or at least I did before quarantine, so I was part of the group that got furloughed straight away. I was really concerned that it left a lot of people who are in the business of serving because they love communicating and interacting with people, with absolutely nothing to do.
Born through this concern about their mental health, Server Artwork is an Instagram page which collates the doodles, thoughts, sketches and scrawls of furloughed hospitality staff. A space to create a sense of unity and community, during quite a lonely time.
The ongoing open call invites servers to pick up their dust-gathering note pads and create. Server Artwork aims to encourage people to pick up a pen and release through the act of creating. Hoping that this sparks a desire to keep producing art. A fundamental part of what makes us human is the need to create and make. Art allows this to be fulfilled, and during these times its necessity has become increasingly more evident. I think people just need a little push to get over the ‘but I’m not creative’ attitude.
How are you coping?
Generally, I would say I am keeping alright. I consider myself to be quite a sociable person, so the isolation has been quite challenging for me at times. I am doing the advised Zoom quizzes and keeping in touch with family and friends, but I am missing spontaneous elements of life like watching people row in Piccadilly Gardens.
I have been keeping a day to day journal in an attempt to record how I am feeling as I think it will be interesting to look back upon in years to come, but also just to release those niggling, negatives thoughts that tend to creep into my head.
I have also built a pinhole camera and have been making prints in my new darkroom bathroom, much to the disdain of my housemate. I just bought some chemicals off Amazon and have been wrapped up in trying to understand exposure times. This has been quite a nice stress release for me, as I had been spending a lot of time on my computer as I am still working from home. The Pending website was also a new venture for me as I had never designed a site on Cargo before. I was finding myself spending hours watching tutorial videos and then having trouble sleeping due to staring at a screen for too long. I think finding the balance between work and life is something I am still learning how to navigate during quarantine. As my bedroom is my office it means I am so accessible. I am now giving myself working hours and trying to stay logged out of my emails outside of those hours.
Image above @ServerArtwork.