As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is increasing social injustices and bringing inequalities to the forefront.
In this fourth edition we show you two strong photography contributions. Firstly, Erhan Us shares a powerful insight into women’s lives and the harm that is inflicted upon them by patriarchal family structures in Iran which is being exacerbated during the pandemic. Secondly, Jo Fountain shares interviews and photographs that focus on the pandemic’s impact upon communities in Manchester.
These are issues we need to see, reflect upon and action.
By Erhan Us
‘The Mummy Project is created to criticise the ‘ornamentation’ and disidentification of women in Iranian society that have their freedoms and preferences exploited. Since lockdown, I wanted to raise awareness on the harm patriarchal family structures incur onto women’s identity and equal rights.‘
Us is a conceptual artist and author. After studying at Bilkent University in TH Management; he was granted to 25+ local and international / honorary awards. He has participated in 70+ exhibitions in 20+ countries. He continues his studies in Sociology & Philosophy at Istanbul and Anadolu Universities. Us is a member of Photographic & Visual Arts Federations, whose book ‘Digital Prestige’ was published in 2018.
By Jo Fountain
“It is true that this world
where we have difficulty breathing
Now inspires in us only evident disgust
A desire to flee without further ado
And we no longer read the headlines”
A Disappearance by Houellebecq
‘This photo project aims to break down social barriers to reflect how people have stood together as a
community during this time despite extreme isolation. It allows us to see the common threads of
human experience and within this highlight inequalities and injustices amongst us. There is a power
of support and acknowledgement that this is a shared responsibility. We stand together to create our own narratives. The portraits have been collected from around Manchester in the UK and with an open brief people were asked to write messages and signs to summarise their experiences or give words of support out to the world. The response has been varied, highlighting familiar phrases,
funny, invites protest, politically charged, esoteric, others personal. Accompanying the portraits are
interviews collecting oral histories of personal experiences and issues that have been highlighted
such as effects of isolation on mental health, issues with state support responses, social care, lack of
funding, and prejudices that have been brought to the foreground to be questioned.
Overwhelmingly people have struggled with the constant and crushing weight of relentless news
stories covering daily atrocities and global crisis. There is a network of support around you if you
look for it and take part. The window acts as both a lens and a reflection on the messages that have
been created. It highlights the power of the word, graffiti, and protest banners. Even in simplified
language, and sometimes especially, there is a re-narration of our view of the world.‘
It’s been awful. Just fucking awful. I’ve had many conversations with people and
they’re like “I don’t think the pandemic’s been that bad. I’ve been able to think about
me and do my yoga and do my music and do my cooking and I’m like fuck you. Tens
of thousands of people have died. Fuck you. I’ve absolutely hated it. I genuinely
thought I would never see my mum again and that was awful. I’ve not been able to
see my niece, like, see’s only a week and a half old but … my brother wasn’t even in
the same fucking hospital when his baby went blue. It’s been fucking awful.
It’s been really tough with my mum but even that’s loads better now. Since we’ve been
able to see her she’s been loads better. We can’t ‘see’ her, see her, we can just see her
through the glass but now that she knows we’re alive I think she’s … I rang her yesterday.
So when you ring her you sing songs and sometimes she would join in and sometimes she
doesn’t. But yesterday she was singing all the songs and then she made up a little song.
She made up this little melody, so I finished singing a song and she just kept singing this
little melody she had made up. Adorable. We’re four of us, she’s got four children and
we’re all really engaged with her care and really engaged with all of it…. old people with
Alzheimer’s I can’t imagine, like millions of people would have died of loneliness.
My friend has got a chronic lung condition and he’s gonna get a letter through the door
soon saying it’s OK, you don’t have to shield anymore. He isn’t going to go out the house.
If he gets it he will die. So he’s going to loose his job now because the government said he
can work now, but he can’t work. They are just not able to test or trace where anything is
so you are having these local flare ups like Leister is in lockdown again. Apparently
Bradford is really bad and fucking nobody knows what’s going on because they never
managed to get rid of the virus anyway and they can’t test for it, or trace for it in the way
that would be useful because they’re fucking useless. So people like him will just never be
able to leave the house. Or, when am I ever able to give my mum a hug? Children died,
children died on their own, it’s awful. Then you’ve got fucking Dominic Cummings driving
up to Durham. It’s just awful. People died alone, people couldn’t hold their dying children.
I’m working on this local economic… it’s called Local Economic Development but it’s
basically how local authorities shape their economies. It’s called Community Wealth
Building, and the whole idea is retaining and creating wealth within the communities. So
right now we have a model, for example, if a hospital got it’s laundry done by a local
supplier instead of say, Serco. That wealth goes back into the local area, so that local
people get employed to do that work and they then spend their money in the local shops
In my opinion they should have had lockdown much earlier than they did. Not like you can
go out one exercise a day or… like all of that shit that was completely un-policeable so
everyone is just doing the fuck they wanted. Obviously we don’t have a fucking police
force because they cut that to shit so they had no-one to police it anyway but .. got rid of
the virus then we could have had a gradual easing of the Lockdown.. But because we
didn’t really lockdown hard enough and we definitely didn’t lockdown early enough we’re in
this kind of semi-lockdown, until when?
This is a crisis of globalisation. This crisis basically means the end of Globalisation
because it was able to travel so fast and because when trade ceased and when the
borders closed, Britain in particular was in a real problem because we don’t have places
that produce PPE or places that produce hand sanitiser and we had to mobilise our
industries to try and create these things and we had mass shortages. This is why the
supermarkets ran out of food. Instead of having spare stuff to sell it’s as and when you
need it, and we’re gonna have to move away from that model. Basically we have to make
our supply chains much smaller to be able to cope with things like this. People are making
tonnes of money out of this it’s perverse. So people that already have money can make
more money but people that have no money are just fucked.
The entire world is in transition and transitions are very unnerving and we have no idea
what the other side is gonna look like and it’s incredibly anxiety inducing then on top of that
hundreds of thousands of people had died. And you read things like today the US has
bought up all of this specific drug. It’s not a vaccine but it’s basically like right well so…
Africa can just die. India can just die. Europe can just die. So the way that patents work is
that you make money out of curing diseases, which also applies to pandemics. It’s just
fucked. So you have to disengage a bit, I think.
“I was freaking out because I couldn’t get any food, and it was like what the fuck,
how am I going to do this!?
I stick my foot out of the window with a bucket on a string and wait for attractive
ladies to come and give me food. But I’m still waiting for them man! I’m starving!
I joke. Dad dropped some stuff off and my mate Mark came with 4 big bags of stuff and I
ate chicken boob for about 25 days. The government food package took about 3/4 weeks.
I could have dropped dead in that time if people hadn’t have been there. It was pretty nuts.
For a lot of understandable reasons people have been very critical of the governments
response, but once this food thing was started it was incredible the way that they were
getting through to people like us. I got a letter from the the doctors saying that I needed to
shield. The way it effects Cerebral Palsy is that even when I get a cold, if I start coughing,
my whole body shakes and I have to hold on to something to stop myself falling forward.
My body kind of goes all over the place. I think they said that I was okay to calm me down
because I was freaking out.
The next thing was, you need to stop yourself going mad, and work, like I say I’ve not
worked since 1997. I would have gone super loopy without writing for theatre. That, and I
have been making Grandmaster Pea videos. A character I had developed before, who
claims he is the Tsar of the disabled, although he is self-appointed.
I kind of felt that there was something coming and I needed to be more safe than other
people. I got this feeling and I just shut the door and that was it. That was 3 and something
months ago. I would say that lockdown has been difficult. Just trying to keep yourself
going. Once you’ve found a way of doing that, it’s okay. It was worse for me because I lost
my Mum as well. She got ill last September and died just before Christmas and dealing
with that has been tough. It wouldn’t really go away. I was really close to her and you
know, she doesn’t leave me, but that doesn’t stop you missing somebody. It’s a weird
acceptance but also hell.
My twin brother is in a residential home which has had people with Covid in so that’s been
a concern, but I’ve been phoning and face timing him and he’s fine with being shut in
because he is on a bed a lot of the time. It’s kind of normal for him. He has the staff and he
has some connection. It is terrible, I’m not saying it’s great, but what I am saying is that in
terms of my brother, he doesn’t come out of his room much, he watches TV so it’s been a
different experience for him because we cannot visit.
They had the problem like a lot of people, where they couldn’t get PPE, and so thats the
other thing about Grandmaster Pea as well, I gave some of the videos to a comedy night
to help raise money for actors who needed food. That was good, I felt like I was doing
things for other people, at a time when I felt like I couldn’t do anything or help. As a
disabled person, you don’t actually get the opportunity to give back to people. This was a
time when I could do that.
I also gave money to the NHS in Mums memory, because she was a midwife, and quite
complicatedly she was a midwife, and we were born on the ward she ran. She had brought
many babies into the world and saved them from the fate that me and Christopher were
not saved from. She always blamed herself I think. We had conversations about it, I think
she wanted to be working and giving birth at the same time. I think she felt guilty, which
she shouldn’t have done, but I think that she did, bless her. Unfortunately the NHS let her
down a number of times. So, that was difficult because everyone was clapping and I was
angry and annoyed, but I still gave money to them.
When she died she wasn’t treated well, they made what was a very difficult situation
worse. They said under no circumstances can you move this woman as she won’t be able
to walk, and that’s what they did. It’s really difficult to process that kind of brutality. I mean
this is a woman who gave years of her life caring for people. She learnt Arabic in the early
70s and felt that people should be understood. That was the incredible thing about her.
What killed me, was she was that compassionate and helped people and that’s how the
NHS sort of thanked her for it. So I have a really weird relationship with them. I mean when
the thing with PPE happened I gave money to that immediately. A big chunk of money, not
that I’m a millionaire but I felt it was important. The idea that people were risking their lives
to save other people, it’s an amazing thing that people wanted to do that, and that they
were brave enough to do it. The idea that they were not being given the support was just
To keep up with the story, or take part please visit lockedinlight.com or re-post your own using the signedtimes hashtag. Extend perceptions, deepen resonances, reinforce connections. Jo’s has a background in Visual Anthropology, oral history and photojournalism.
MANY THANKS TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS
If you have work which highlights the social injustices that are being intensified or laid bare by Covid-19 please submit your work to the Photojournalism Hub. We will be adding a dossier page on a monthly basis. Submit by October 30th to be included in the next dossier.