When future generations look back upon the Covid-19 pandemic, how will history record the times we are living through, and how in particular will the experiences of young people be remembered?
It’s a question that entered the mind of Perth-based photographer Shaun Ward at the start of this year when he started thinking about the impact the pandemic was having on his own children and inspired him to embark upon a project that will record wider pupil experiences for posterity.
The 52-year-old married father of three started taking a series of portrait photographs of young people while asking them through a questionnaire how they have found the last year.
Having tracked down parents/children of his initial nine subjects through Facebook, he is now on the lookout for more children aged eight to 14 to get involved in the project with the plan being to turn the portraits-led stories of around 40 children into a book.
“I’m always looking for ideas for photo projects towards the portrait side of it,” explains Shaun.
“But when the first lockdown hit I lost around five months of bookings overnight when the schools and universities closed and took the decision to take a part time parcel delivery job to keep money coming in.
“I got back to work in August. Since then it has been a period of keeping things going through some work and grants.
“The Lockdown Portraits series came about in January as I thought about how children – including my own – were coming up to a year since schools first closed and I thought it would be a good idea to mark this in some way while at the same time allowing me to keep working away with the portraits.”
Photographs and questionnaires
Shaun explains that all the initial parents and children contacted through Lockdown Portraits were found through a social media appeal.
The children were, bar one, photographed in their garden or within a few feet of their home. The idea was to show where they had spent a lot of their time in the lockdown periods. They were all given a questionnaire to fill in.
The 12 questions were: Who have you spent lockdown with? What activity have you been doing to keep active? Have you learnt any new skills during lockdown? What have you missed the most over the last 12 months?
Have you changed what you would normally do at the weekend? What is your best memory of lockdown? What has been the worst thing to happen during lockdown?
How have you found home schooling during this time? When you were at school how did you find the new restrictions? What do you hope will happen for the rest of this year?
What would you like to do as a job when you are older? Do you have any other interesting or funny stories that have happened during this time?
Insight into lives during lockdown
Shaun explained that he expected similar answers to some questions such as the type of activities children had been doing or how they had been adapting to things like online gymnastics and Joe Wicks exercise.
However, there was also a range of sometimes emotional answers whereby some had found going back to school easy whereas some found it harder due to the restrictions. Some people enjoyed home learning while others spoke of family members becoming ill.
“Basically the questionnaire was to get a rough idea of three areas in my head,” adds Shaun.
“Basically what were the kids doing at home? How did they find going back to school and home schooling? And then just what they hoped for for the rest of the year?”
Answers received so far include 11-year-old Roxanne who said: “I spent lockdown with my family, which has been nice as at times. I have felt lonely and bored so it was nice when I got to spend time with my cousins.”
When asked if she had learned any new skills during lockdown, she replied: “The new skills I learned during lockdown have been backhand springs and flips as I have had a lot of time to practice them.”
Ten-year-old Millie said her best memory of lockdown was when her nephew was born while the worst thing to happen during lockdown was when her mum, dad and auntie all got ill.
The girl also had reason to celebrate as she’d made it to the top 10 of the World Lyrical Dance online competition against people from Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa.
She’d also made it onto Team Scotland for the Dance World Cup which is one of the largest dance competitions in the world.
Nine-year-old footballer Charlie, meanwhile, said the worst thing to happen was his mum being very ill with Covid-19 near Christmas. “It was horrible!” he said. “I was really upset seeing my mum so ill. Dad got it too but he only couldn’t taste or smell.”
The boy also described home learning as “terrible”, adding: ”It’s harder at home as my teacher knows how I learn. I get angry when I can’t do something new. It’s very hard and I don’t have a group to ask for help. My sister, who is 17, has been good and helped me loads though.”
When 12-year-old Logan was asked if he’d changed what he would normally do at the weekend, he replied: “Yes I play video games now instead of meeting friends and going out to play.”
But when asked what he hopes will happen for the rest of this year, he replied simply: “That lockdown and Covid-19 would go away for good!”
Shaun adds: “I’m currently at nine participants and the plan is to change the questions as we move out of lockdown and allow the locations to expand further from their home as they are allowed more freedom to move around.
“What I’m really trying to do is record a moment in time that will become more meaningful in 20 years’ time as kids look back – the emotion of how it impacted them.”
Shaun Ward – impact on photography business
Living in Perth with his wife Alison and children Struan, 17, and Erin, 14, the couple also have an older son Kieran, 21, who is studying at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
The family, like so many, have first hand experience of the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought both for school and work.
Leaving school in 1987, Shaun joined the RAF as an air traffic controller where he stayed for three months.
But after deciding the military wasn’t for him, and following eight months of unemployment, he decided to try a media studies course at Perth College which he enjoyed – particularly photography – and finished with an HND.
Since then, he has covered a few areas in photography including sport, press, weddings and commercial.
Until 10 years ago this was interspersed with periods of working ‘normal jobs’ with photography becoming part time.
He taught photography at Perth College from 2000-2010 and spent five years (2011-2015) as the main photographer with the Kiltwalk charity which included climbing Kilimanjaro with the charity in 2013.
Over the past decade he has been full time with photography starting in sports, moving through social and commercial and moving more towards becoming mainly a portrait photographer in commercial, PR, schools and universities.
Shaun adds: “Over the last 12 months the number one thing on everyone’s minds has been the whole Covid thing.
“I think in the end it will become a moment in time for people to look back on and have a look at families involved.
“As we were in a ‘level 4’ lockdown when I first started in February I have only included people within my area of Perth but the hope is to expand this through Tayside and Fife as things open up.
“The eventual plan is to produce a book which will mark this unique time in which the children have lived through and give some insight to future generations of how they had to adapt.
“The hope it to get to 40-50 participants that will allow me to produce a book which will have a design of photos and quotes from the questionnaire.
“Going further ahead in 40/50 years it’ll become a historical item and be good for other generations to look back and see what others went through and compare to their own lives.”
Shaun Ward is looking for new youngsters aged eight to 14 from the Tayside and Fife area to feature in the book with their lockdown experiences. Parents/carers wanting to find out more can can get in touch through his website www.shaunward.com