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Our picture of lockdown – Tayside photographers on the road to recovery

From the Loving Photography exhibition. Photograph by Helen Gowland.
From the Loving Photography exhibition. Photograph by Helen Gowland.

Photography has never been a bigger part of our lives. Most of us carry a camera around in our pockets, which just happens to have a phone function too. We can capture moments at any time and end up with thousands of images that are rarely looked at again.

A collaborative photography project by Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust (THAT) and The McManus has supported 10 people with long-term health conditions to develop their photography skills and chronicle their lives, under the guidance of photographer and artist David P Scott and supported by Arts Fund.

The results of the eight-week course are presented from today in an online gallery, called Loving Photography.

Photograph by Michelle Cassidy.

The inspiration for the project’s theme is the street photography in A Love Letter to Dundee: Joseph McKenzie Photographs 1964-1987, the  exhibition currently running at The McManus.

David P Scott delivered workshops by Zoom but then it was up to the participants to put together something of a photographic essay of their time in lockdown. Each photographer has six images in the gallery – everything from rain-soaked streets to masked shadows to murmurations.

Photograph by Steven Ogg

Michelle Cassidy was one of the photographers and said the project gave her the push to just leave the house. “I began to interact with the world and begin to see the beauty of life again. The sense of accomplishment each week, completing a series of photos had a huge benefit to my wellbeing and seeing and hearing others enjoyment in my photos definitely was a boost to my self-esteem.

“The couple of really rough weeks I was having came through my photographs which helped me to bring out my feelings. A kind of therapy, especially writing it down and explaining my photos. The social interaction with the other participants and the feeling of acceptance for being me and of my difficulties, where difficulties don’t matter, allowed me to feel me again, something I don’t feel very often.”

Photograph by Alison Reeves.
Photograph by Mark Pennycook.
Photograph by Athene Bergamino.

Lockdown has certainly slowed the world down and that pace is valuable in photography. Standing back and really looking at a subject, making sure there’s a good reason for taking the photograph is a lesson in our increasingly snap-happy world.

Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust is involved in a wide range of programmes that not only enhance quality of life, but promote social inclusion. With the support of NHS Tayside, it works with groups of people recovering from and living with long-term health conditions.

Photograph by Eilish Nairn.

This is the group’s first collaboration with The McManus. “It’s exciting for us and particularly valuable for us to be sharing resources just now,” says Chris Kelly, projects coordinator.

“Our participants are finding this second lockdown even more difficult and the weekly creative challenges provide a positive focus and exchange for everyone.

“I think the overwhelmingly positive response has highlighted the potential of partnerships  like this, as well as the role that art and photography plays in enhancing well being and resilience.”

Photograph by Robert Carrie.

The McManus has also seen the benefits of a collaboration. As it moves towards opening its doors again, when people can experience Joseph McKenzie’s moving exhibition of Dundee street life photography, a partnership that can allow them to play a part in positive mental health and reach out to their audience is vital.

Cheryl McDermid, creative learning officer at Leisure and Culture Dundee said: “The Reconnect projects are a great example of how museums, health organisations and cultural partners can find ways to inspire and connect with those who really need us to.”

Photography by Issy Robertson.

Alice Jones, another of the photographers, says that she did take thousands of photographs. but the course definitely taught her so much about how to translate what she was seeing  into what the camera recorded.

“Who knew I could do this? I’ve shocked myself. I never knew I could be this good. I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive, awesome feedback and feel very emotional about it.

“It’s the best thing by far that I’ve done since having a brain tumour and hopefully I will carry on doing this as it seems to have brought out a huge passion I never knew I had. It was wonderful and I hope I’m lucky enough to do this again.”

Photograph by Alice Jones.

The Loving Photography exhibition will be hosted online at David P Scott’s website and can be viewed from today until May 29.