Photography project captures Bedford during the coronavirus lockdown

Chiara McCall - coronavirus photography project

A Bedford photographer has set herself the task of documenting lockdown life in Bedford, by taking photos of people – from a safe distance – in their homes.

Chiara Mac Call is combining the project with her daily exercise, walking to the houses of Bedfordians to take their photos.

“Every day since the C-19 lockdown began, as part of my exercise for the day, I walk to someone’s house and, by arrangement, I wave and I take a photo of them (at as safe distance), then I walk back home,” explained Chiara.
“It started with friends and acquaintances, but increasingly the word is spreading and people are getting in touch who I have never met before.”

The Irish/Italian documentary photographer is finding the project both creative and cathartic.

“With friends in China and family in Italy I’ve been acutely aware of the pandemic spread across the world.

“These are unprecedented times, riddled with anxiety, and we are all having to find ways to adapt to our new circumstances. A week before lockdown, all my work as a photographer had already been deferred or cancelled, which is a cause for financial concern.

“Worse than that, I had been dealing with the double anxiety of being in a different country from both of my parents, who are in particularly vulnerable categories for C-19 and live in Italy and Switzerland respectively.

“After waking one morning at 5 am to clean the oven (which I hadn’t touched in over a year before that) I realised I needed to find something constructive to do with all my time and worry.

“I thought, I may not be in a position to be physically present for my parents, but I can do things locally, here in Bedford, for the people I can reach.”

Chiara joined support groups and volunteered practical assistance, but she wanted to find a creative use for her photography.

“Isolation is hard for a lot of people and containment also. I wanted to find a way to force myself to get out and exercise (safely) every day. I also wanted to find a way to reach out (safely) to people, friends and acquaintances to start with, but increasingly just people in general who may be feeling isolated or – like all of us – simply trying to work out how to meet these new and unexpected challenged in our lives.”

“That is what I wanted to do, more than taking photos that document this unique time in our lives (though that too is interesting), I wanted to show people that they are no alone and that so long as I am healthy (and obviously taking all the necessary social distancing and other precautions) I will happily walk miles just to wave at them from the road.

“These are difficult times, but the instinct to reach out and connect is unchanged. Now more than ever it is important to help people to realise we can still do that in a safe way. To remind people that the physical isolation that is necessary to keep us all safe, is not the same as experiencing a sense of isolation or feeling alone.

“The response to the projects has been overwhelming. This is not really surprising for Bedford which has a great community spirit and is very diverse with many people who – like me – will have relatives and friends abroad who they cannot reach at this time.

“Nevertheless, it has been really touching and it’s certainly keeping me busy. At this rate I’m going to be fitter after the lockdown is over than I was before it started!”

Of all the photos, the one of Laura, Tim and Harrison has such a great story attached, that we needed to share it.

“I would have never met Laura, Tim and Harrison, were it not for the adventures of Bungee the Blue Bunny. A week or so before we went into lockdown I was walking in town when I saw a sweet little toy bunny on the ground by a bust station.

“I thought – surely that bunny is lost and belongs to someone. So I picked the bunny up, took some photos (because what else does a photographer do), gave him a a good anti C-19 soapy wash and put out message on social media asking Bedfordians if anyone could help the bunny find his way back home. 

“It took precisely five minutes. 

“I’m not exaggerating. Five minutes for a blue bunny to be identified as Bungee, Harrison’s all important sleep bunny and maybe a whole other five min before I was conversing with Laura about how to get him back home. 

Chiara McCall - coronavirus photography project
Tim, Harrison, Laura and Bungee

“So here they are. Laura, Tim, Harrison and Bungee the Blue Bunny all together, safe and sound at home, weathering the C-19 storm. We all look forward to the day when we can meet in person and go for a walk together along the embankment. But for now, I think this will do just fine. 

“Stay safe people and take care of yourselves, each other and your bunnies.”

You can keep up to date with Chiara’s project on her Facebook page. She’s also twitter @callchiara and on Instagram @chichi76.myreflection

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