The urge to document this strange time happened very naturally. With a flask of tea in one hand and my camera in the other, I used daily walks to visit friends from a distance.
We’d sit opposite one another on the edge of the roadside and talk about our shared fears and anxieties.
Talking was good, I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Seeing people from a distance for a few minutes gave me purpose and broke up the monotony of the day. That’s how Covid and the cup of tea started.
Daily strolls around residential areas prompted questions in my head about how people were coping. What were their fears? How were they adapting to this unprecedented situation? What did they plan to do when this was all over? The only clues into other people’s lives were the sounds of laughter from children and the odd rumble of a vacuum cleaner from an open window.
Like all towns the eerie stillness meant I could take portraits in the road, this added to the strangeness of the situation. Empty car parks and deserted streets felt like the new normal and became the backdrop to the series.
I asked only two things of my subjects, bring a cup of tea and a chair to sit on. This request revealed a little bit about each person I photographed. A stormtrooper souvenir mug that held memories from times gone by, to full blown statement mugs that stated you’re the ‘queen of fucking everything’. You’d be surprised just how much a mug reveals about yourself.
Whether my sitters were friends, family or complete strangers, capturing unconscious gestures like a hand on a partners shoulder or a shy toddler hiding behind a father, were the important yet subtle interactions between families and couples that brought the portrait to life.
My hope for this documentary series is that it will become an historical document, a record in time of what our lives were like during lockdown. In twenty years’ time when we look back on this moment, we can say we did our best to protect our families. We reconnected with one another and found a way through this pandemic with the ones we love.
Entry by Photographer Haley Mchaffie
The new British Photographic Assignments, open to all British-based photographers and those of British nationality the world over is continuing to accept images until 1st of January 2021.