COEXISTING | In December, I apprehensively traveled to the United States to spend Christmas with my family. After receiving a negative test result at the airport and fully stocked with masks and sanitiser, I boarded a plane en route to the global epicentre of the pandemic. I embarked on creating a photo project that embodied daily life amid the deadly virus that has killed nearly 350,000 in the United States alone. But upon arriving, an unanticipated attitude of business as usual met me. Besides mask-wearing (which some were not doing well), the travel experience was similar to the countless other trips I have taken to my hometown of Orlando, including being seated next to a young girl excitedly heading on a Disney vacation. I began to think about the paradox of the pandemic. While this virus has been killing hundreds of thousands and leaving many with financial, social, and mental health woes, it remains challenging to visualise the pandemic scale as daily life persists for many despite it all.
Given the varying faces of the pandemic, I shied away from traditional documentary or photojournalism style for this project and set out to create a more conceptual series, which combines image and text in a mixed media collage format. The project, entitled COEXISTING, consists of twenty digital images that have been digitally altered to include twenty current newspaper headlines. The work strives to visually represent this dichotomy between the pandemic experienced firsthand as an observer through photos, with headlines from a local paper in Orlando during the same time. The project is structured to show the contrast between the seen simultaneously alongside current events in the news cycle. The result shows the disconnect between the pandemic’s realities, including recent social and political news, with the observer’s visual scenes. This project is not intended to condemn or alienate individuals who appear untouched by COVID-19 or striving for normalcy during the pandemic, but to portray the camera lens’s inability to show the anxiety, depression, and suffering that may not be visible to the human eye. The project captures the humanity that persists on, despite adversity. It is not dismissive of the pandemic’s scale and gravity but rather illustrates the reality of the experience for many Americans and other individuals across the globe.
I hope the project will appeal to a broad audience interested in the contrast between the COVID-19 pandemic and daily life for many individuals. It will challenge people to practice self-reflection and come to a deeper understanding of the coexistence of the varying faces of these tumultuous times. It is a war zone for those on the front lines, but this is not a war where bombs are being dropped in public spaces, visible to all. It is a battle fought mostly behind hospital walls and in private mourning. COEXISTING reveals an invisible enemy living alongside eerily surreal scenes of normalcy, interactions between friends and family, and sunny, sandy days by the ocean.
BORN IN 2020 | is about the children born in 2020, a year of a global pandemic and much social/political unrest. Many people did not live to see 2021, or lost loved ones in 2020, or survived it all but would prefer to never look back. But for the families that welcomed children in 2020, the year remains a paradox. In many ways, having a child and the first few months of life have been completely disrupted and upset by COVID-19 and lockdowns, but in other senses, the quiet has brought a unique time for reflections and looking ahead at what is to come for the next generation.
HUNTER | BORN IN OCTOBER, LONDON, UK
ON THE BIRTH EXPERIENCE
“I think it was a bit strange having the midwives staring at you in masks and visors and these kind of plastic suits… I was supposed to have my sister be my birthing partner but because of Covid when I went in my friend was with me and she then had to stay there and be my birthing partner. And I kind of just got forced into that.”
Hunter is Sarah’s first baby and she was upset by the amount of support that she lost due to Covid. There were many prenatal appointments cancelled, as well as post-birth visits from midwives. She found herself turning to her other mum’s for advice.
“I think there’s just a lack of support because there used to be breastfeeding clinics.. a lot of the opportunities to get a bit of support to teach you how to do things are taken away.”
WHAT WILL YOU TELL HIM ABOUT BEING BORN IN 2020?
“I’ll tell him he took ages to come out. I’ll tell him that, well it’s quite a big year to be born. Everyone is going to know this in history. It’s a memorable year… This is the best experience of my life. Having a baby, even if it’s in Covid.”
AXEL | BORN IN MAY, LONDON, UK
ON THE BIRTH EXPERIENCE
When Axel was born his mum Amanda had to go through a majority of her labour alone, as the hospital only allowed partners during the final stages of the delivery.
“I got to the point where I was kind of like, I don’t have any choice. I can’t freak out because there isn’t anyone here to freak out to anyways… I just got on with it.”
“Because the boys weren’t at school, it was actually really nice the first few weeks. We were just in our own little bubble. I didn’t have to worry because normally, when the others have been born, it was visitor after visitor, it can get a bit overwhelming. We have a big family as well and they are all quite keen to get their hands on the baby. And we didn’t have any of that. I didn’t have to worry about the house or making sure we had biscuits because such and such was coming over. None of that. It was just us. The boys got to spend time with him and get to know him without being sent off to school or being shoved off cause there’s an auntie here who wants to cuddle the baby…. So in that respect it was really lovely.”
“Before he was born I had a couple of days where I was like, this really is horrible. It was when we would be having daily updates of how many people had died and everything was really dire. I was like, this is really awful. But obviously after he was born we were quite distracted and he’s a happy little thing. And his timing, when he was born, he’s brought a lot of joy to other people as well.”
MAIA & RUFUS | BORN IN AUGUST, LONDON, UK
ON THE BIRTH EXPERIENCE
“It felt different [than having her other children] mainly because I didn’t have anyone else there. Although my husband is great, personally, I felt like, it’s weird to say but, you need your mum sometimes. And I kind of missed that sort of mum reassurance. And like little things, when they were putting the epidural in my husband properly passed out basically so I was on my own. But that’s just how it is and it was okay.”
“I almost had to pick and choose who I would allow to come over in the early days. I needed help because I had two babies but I also couldn’t have everyone around. So that guilt kind of sits with you, that person can’t come because they have kids or whatever. So it was hard in that sense because I’m quite a social person. It was hard to not have people help me.”
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO THE BABIES ABOUT BEING BORN IN THIS YEAR?
“Oh I don’t know… You survived. You made it. You were in born in the most historic year ever known to man. 2020 is gonna be the best birthday ever.”