Monday, March 1, 2021

The Year the World Stopped


The Year the World Stopped - Life in a Pandemic

As we near the end of lockdown and dare to hope for a life resembling the old normal, I've been reflecting on the last year in pictures.

New Year's Day 2020

We heralded in the New Year - 2020, that is - in Cornwall. Here's the New Year dip at Readymoney Cove in Cornwall. Social distancing was only a matter of weeks away but no one on this beach had yet heard of the phrase. I wasn't brave enough to participate, but given the year we've all had, I would now. In a heartbeat.


It's notable how many of my photographs from around this time featured people and are quite "busy" as evidenced by this rainy day shot of shoppers in Stratford-Upon-Avon, jostling for pavement space.


West Mids Photo Collective Walk


This image was captured on the final Photo Walk I attended in Wolverhampton. For the best part of a year we have been unable to see friends and family in close quarters and yet here, we elected to meet up with a large group of total strangers, united only by a passion for photography. We walked together, talked together, viewed each other's images at close proximity and huddled together around pub tables. No 2 metre rule, no masks, no fear.




Life in motion.  Movement was also something I focused on at this time, experimenting with hand panning.   This photograph of a cyclist pushing his bike was taken outside the famous Feathers Hotel in Ludlow. It's now been well over a year since our last visit to this town, just an hour's drive away.



By early March, Covid was the nightmarish buzz word and the writing was on the wall. I think we entered our own lockdown a few weeks before the government instructed us to "Stay at home."


I think some photographs lend themselves to black and white more readily, but I do recall the day these were taken and there were beautiful blue skies and spring had most definitely sprung. For some reason I chose black and white edits however and the images are pretty stark. A reflection of my mood perhaps.






Post March 16th 2020, we were always "in," only leaving the house for exercise, food, essential work or medical reasons. We decorated. We read books. We sowed seeds and planted. We reconnected with nature.


Every day counted during the first lockdown. The daily death toll was too much to take at times. The image below was of a typical town centre (in this case, Stourbridge), transformed by Covid restrictions.


Stourbridge, first lockdown


My son and I went for a dawn walk. The roads were eerily quiet anyway during this period, but still we created a special memory, watching the sun rise, returning via the woods to the sound of a hooting owl.


Dawn Walk

I had a surge of creativity during the first lockdown and taught myself a few editing tricks. At the time, I saw these as playful and experimental, but with the benefit of hindsight, they are very centred around nature as per this image featuring a dandelion seed head as the rising sun.



This image of tree roots overlayed with the shadowy outline of a boat I photographed in Devon, I named "Landlubber." That pretty much sums up the feeling at the time. As islanders, most of us love escaping to the coast, but it was not to be until much later in 2020.




They are also hopeful as with this image of fairies taking flight.  









A rainbow, that symbol of the NHS as our saviour, also features. 


Clapping/blowing for the NHS





When the poppies appeared, this white poppy stood out for me.   

Again, we dared to hope.







VE Day was a scorcher and we decided to wander around our neighbourhood and take a visual record of this momentous day.  



People were happy to interact - from their driveways - starved of company for what felt like an eternity. 



 



It was a sign of the times that the few photography jobs I received during this period were product photography assignments of yes, you guessed it, face coverings.


As restrictions eased during the summer months, I think many of us realised that our new taste of liberty couldn't last.   It felt that we were living life on the end of a yo-yo, so the brief taste of freedom was so much sweeter.   





For example, the experience of visiting a National Trust property we had been to numerous times before, was heightened.   Everything seemed so much more magical, hence this image, glittering with gold.



We even managed a week by the coast in Devon.  Life at this time was like a lesson in mindfulness; every moment heightened...


...from the wild Lynton goats and the sunlit gnats dancing around them
...to the familiar view of Foreland Point I have seen countless times, but never tire of...

...through to the last night of our getaway, taking in the view and breathing in the sea air.

And so here we are on 1st March 2021. There are many similarities to this time last year.   Covid still dominates the news, the sky is blue and spring is in the air. 

However, this time, we have the promise of a vaccination and a way forward.   I've enjoyed lockdown in many ways and my love and reverence for nature has only increased (I'm in awe of this beautiful little nest interwoven with horse hair I spotted in a hedgerow the other day). 


Like everyone, we're still at home most of the time.  I'm still reading loads - currently dipping in and out of my Almanac and savouring The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell - and our TV viewing knows no bounds.  Jed Mercurio's Bloodlands delivered a shocking early reveal last night.  So whilst I appreciate the time we have had and have grown accustomed to not seeing people (most I've missed, some I haven't), I'm ready to reconnect and re-enter society!




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