Mass Isolation project a connection in times of 'COVID norm'


Published: The Age
Topic: Coronavirus
2020


There's a face mask hanging next to a front door; empty grandstands at sporting fields; a hotchpotch of working from home spaces.

There's a face mask hanging next to a front door; empty grandstands at sporting fields; a hotchpotch of working from home spaces.

They're images we can all relate to: the new "COVID norm".

But the 413 images in the Ballarat International Foto Biennale's Mass Isolation project are more than pretty pictures. They aim to connect people during the very time they're being forced to stay apart.

“It was obvious at the beginning of the pandemic that we needed to do something to tell the story of COVID-19 photographically,” says Fiona Sweet, director of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

“The isolation series has been a way to be able to connect people with that story while being separated.”

Inspired by the Mass Observation project that captured life in Britain from 1937 until the mid-1960s, the Mass Isolation series is the Australian arm of a collaboration between Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Format International Photography Festival in the UK, and the Gallery of Photography in Ireland.

Some 9000 images have been submitted from across Australia since the project launched on March 31. Images are submitted via Instagram using the hashtag #massisolationaus and curators Shaohui Kwok and Amelia Sawardthen comb through them each day, selecting their favourites to appear on the Mass Isolation Australia Instagram page.

One of the selected photos captures a grandmother with a hand pressed against her granddaughter's through the window of her home in an aged care facility.

It was taken by Sandy Scheltema, a photographer capturing a visual record of life during the pandemic in her hometown of Trentham, north-west of Melbourne.

“I like this photo because you can feel the love and it really tells the human cost of it all,” Scheltema says.

She has been uploading her images to the Trentham Connect Facebook page as part of a project funded by Creative Victoria and Regional Arts Victoria.



© JB 2020