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In th Crosshairs © Clare Hochter

In the Crosshairs © Clare Hochter

Lockdown stories in photographs

What did you do during lockdown? It meant different things to different people: to some it was a welcome hiatus; to others a sort of imprisonment; lonely; stuck; lack of concentration; walks; gardening; reading; jigsaws; boxed TV sets; cooking and baking. Some enjoyed it, others hated it. And lots thanked the weather gods for the fine weather. To HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths a black cloud settled, resulting in a sort of torpor with the occasional action spike. But I did take photographs, as did other members of Photo Hastings – and here I have to declare an interest ­ – as being part of an exhibition We Baked All Our Own Bread: one mischief always leads to another.

Prehistoric Landscape ©Giles Stokoe

Prehistoric Landscape ©Giles Stokoe

An odd title, but it encapsulates what the exhibition is all about. The title references the book by Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, published in 1722. It is a fictionalised account of one man’s experiences of the Great Plague in the city of London in the year 1665. And is somewhat pertinent to the situation that we find ourselves in today.

Curated by Andrew Moran, this is a group show by 15 photographers of images taken during lockdown earlier this year. Photographers as a breed are highly independent individuals with different concerns, styles and approaches. Yet, the show has a cohesiveness that reflects the various dilemmas; the unknowingness and uncertainty of the times.

Clare Hochter echoes the plague from Albert Camus’ 1947 novel, La Peste/The Plague.  “Having studied this at A-Level in my youth, now, some forty years on, I am personally struck by how current circumstances have given the novel a new and vividly contemporary resonance.” The image is layered from a number of photographs that she took during the Covid lockdown. It has a poignant and intense response as you  look into it, through several layers of images which are then reflected back. It enhances that level of uncertainty and vulnerability that we feel.

Net hut © Kate Redfern

As I walked into the show it felt slightly monochrome, brooding, unsettling. Plainly untrue. Several artists have captured nature in different ways through walking, discovering woods around Hastings. Sineid Codd  found echoes of her moods in stones – Staying safe, Feeling a bit off.

There is a feeling of uncertainty and isolation. Derek Cottrell reflects the countryside, in places, as locked down as we are, with barred footpaths. Kate Redfern “started to notice and think about things differently,” which shows in her graphic images of the 16th century net huts, looming large on The Stade. Looking up at them, seeing them from  different angles, they seem menacing, unpredictable.

My Favourite Brush © Roz Cran

My Favourite Brush © Roz Cran

Roz Cran’s answer to the situation was to go gardening on her allotment. She has long been concerned with our relationship and disconnection from nature, “and the harm that causes has come to the fore with frightening ferocity this year.” By illustrating in photographs and painting two views of her favourite well-loved tools, you can almost feel the heft of the trowel, the hand in the glove: tools made for purpose, their loving use.

Giles Stokoe went walking in the Seven Sisters Country Park with his father, who has Alzheimer’s. “I was contemplating the permanence of the landscape and the transience of our human experience of it.” The area has been used since the mesolithic period – using a pinhole camera, he wanted to experiment with images that might be looking for that vanished world underneath the modern landscape, conversely, revealing modern details clothing the ancient geography.

Hybrid © Nicole Zaaroura-

Hands and gestures feature in Sharon Haward and Nicole Zaaroura’s work – instinctual responses. Haward dug deep into the soil, excavating clay to make an object using the resources at hand – clay, hands, water, fire. The process “became a soothing antidote to the chaos going on beyond the garden fence.”

Zaaroura’s work is always mesmeric, emotional  and tender. Although I cannot say I always understand it, it gives me pause for thought as I look and ponder on it. She explores the borders of intimacy and distance. “I am revealing everyday choreographies and gestures as process for translating into peripheral, architectural and urban spaces. “Each gesture is an event, one might even say a drama, in itself” – Walter Benjamin.

Bowl From Luxor April 2020 © Alex Brattell

From the series “Resting State. Photographs 2020”. © Alex Brattell

Alex Brattell’s interest in pictures of simple objects and domestic light had been building since being enchanted as a very young child in the 1960s by dust floating in sunlight. He also recognises “that there is no such thing as a simple picture.”

His photographs have a stillness to them that allows you to stop, feel and look. There is an emotional depth to them: beyond, above, below and inside the images – a collision of the now, the past and the future.

Everything has its own story. Simple is never simple.

The reaction to the lockdown is diverse and interesting. It shows the individuality and different concerns and ways of looking at the world of each photographer, whether abstract or realistic. And is a reminder of that time, what we all were, and are, going through.

13/06/2020 #3 © Derek Cottrell

020 #3 © Derek Cottrell

Hochter says that when Camus’ daughter recently spoke to the Guardian about La Peste she explained the similarities between then and now. “She said that she believes that the message of the book is that we are all responsible for our actions. ‘We are not responsible for coronavirus but we can be responsible in the way we respond to it.’ And ‘Perhaps with the lockdown we will have some time to reflect about what is real, what is important, and become more human.’ Let’s hope…”

Photographers: Alexander Brattell, Chris Coombes, Clare Hochter, Derek Cottrell, Frank Francis, Giles Stokoe, Ian O’Leary, Josie Barnes, Katie Redfern, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, Roz Cran, Sharon Haward, Roger Hopgood, Nicole Zaaroura, Sinéid Codd.

We Baked All Our Own Bread: one mischief always leads to another is at the Zuzushii Art Laboratory, 26 White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JY until 20 November. Opening times Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm.

Posted 20:30 Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020 In: Photography

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