Through Our Lens: Growing up with Covid-19
Young people document their experience of the Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted lives across the globe, hindering opportunity, enforcing isolation and severing ties between communities. News headlines reveal dangers to the elderly, frustrations of working from home and the struggles of keyworkers maintaining vital services, but what of the so-called ‘Covid generation’, teenagers young people trying to find their way in this unprecedented time?
Through Our Lens is a project featuring poignant photographs made by a group of diverse young people from the Bradford District during the Covid-19 pandemic. Working with award-winning artist Carolyn Mendelsohn, who quickly responded to the critical need for community, collaboration and skill development during the first national lockdown, over 100 young people have taken part in the project. Initially offering guidance and mentoring via Zoom, Mendelsohn taught participants the skills to use photography as a tool to document their experiences and help make sense of their changing worlds.
Though we may be familiar with over arching stories of school closures and resource shortages, first hand stories of young peoples’ pandemic experience have largely gone untold. At a time when the NSPCC are reporting an increase of over 60,000 counselling sessions via its telephone service Childline, and mental health support providers detail an alarming increase in issues ranging from sleep deprivation to self-harm, it is vital to consider the lifelong impact that Covid-19 is having on future generations.
Featuring work made by 12 to 19 year olds during the first national lockdown, and 6 to 11 year olds during the third national lockdown, the exhibition will present some of the most compelling images documenting what life is like living with Covid-19. The teenagers represent a spectrum of socio-economic groups, including a number of refugees who moved to Bradford just months before the pandemic took hold.
Curated in collaboration with the young artists who made the work, the exhibition is both a reflection on a period of adversity as well as a celebration of the resilience, dedication and spirit of a diverse group of young people.
Anne McNeill, Director at Impressions Gallery says, ‘Reflecting back on almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Through Our Lens offers a vital window into how the next generation have adapted and grown through an incredibly challenging time. The photographs in the exhibition are some of the most thoughtful, perceptive and compelling photographic works to emerge from this period, demonstrating a skill beyond age and giving us an exciting insight into the next generation of photographers.’
Supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Bradford Council Response grant.
As well as mentorship, Through Our Lens has been financially supported by Impressions Gallery since its inception, and the resulting exhibition will reflect the gallery’s investment in the project, helping to nurture a new generation of photographic talent.
Explore Through Our Lens: Growing up with Covid-19 in this interactive virtual experience captured by V21 Artspace.
Meet the Artists
Produced by Impressions Gallery
Through Our Lens
Through Our Lens is an artist led self-isolation project developed by Bradford based artist Carolyn Mendelsohn. The project is nurturing and mentoring a core group of young people aged between 12 and 20 years old to create new photography, based on their personal experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. The project has also engaged satellite groups, including a younger cohort of 6 to 11 year olds and Bradford College ESOL students. To date Mendelsohn has mentored over 100 young people from a broad spectrum of socio-economic groups, including a number of refugees who moved to the district just six months prior to the first national lockdown only to be plunged straight into isolation as the pandemic took hold.
Carolyn works with participants via digital platforms and in face-to-face sessions, running workshops and mentoring sessions. In July 2020, the group exhibited outdoors across the Bradford District as part of a major public art project, Our Street Gallery. In 2021 the younger cohort of the group self-published their work in a zine, Our World. The work created by Through Our Lens has been acquired by the nationally important Bradford Museums and Galleries photography archive and will be made available for future generations to enjoy.
Carolyn Mendelsohn is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker whose practice is rooted in telling stories and amplifying the voices of those who are not always heard. In April 2020, when her own practice ground to a halt, she set up Through Our Lens to enable young people to tell their own story of the Covid-19 pandemic through photography.
Carolyn has spoken at national events about Through Our Lens and is working on developing the model to mentor others and enable other people to facilitate their own Through our Lens projects. Carolyn was recently named as a finalist for the National Lottery Awards in the culture, arts and film category for her outstanding work with Through Our Lens.
Carolyn’s long-term project Being Inbetween has been exhibited internationally, including at Impressions Gallery, and has been published by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, La Monde, BBC and British Journal of Photography. She was awarded the BJP Portrait of Britain in 2017 and 2019 and won Gold in The Royal Photographic Society International Print exhibition 2017/18. Mendelsohn’s first book, Being Inbetween was published in December 2020 by Bluecoat Press.
Carolyn has recently worked with a group of women refugees at Impressions Gallery as part of the national project Putting Ourselves in the Picture, Fast Forward: Women in Photography, funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Through Our Lens Newspaper
Published to coincide with the exhibition, this brand-new newspaper is a celebration of the resilience, dedication and spirit of a remarkable group of young people.
Full colour 24 page newspaper available from our gallery Shop for a suggested donation of £2.Click here to preview
Our visitors say...
‘’These children and young people have such important and valuable insights. It is incredibly refreshing to see these opinions and perspectives respected and taken in earnest.’’
‘’This is such a nostalgic yet harrowing selection of beautifully shot photographs. Well done to you all! I hope that photography is something that you continue.’’
‘’These photos brought back memories – some good, some not, of the terrifying intricacies of lockdown – they were captured so beautifully it almost disguises the unfamiliarity and reminds us of the peaceful moments that made the time so memorable – very special’’
‘’An overwhelming experience. I grew up during the pandemic, never had the opportunity to do exams. Suffered with teens the same age as me, this gallery brought me hope with how much we’ve moved forward.’’
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