Usually, we only know a moment is important after it has passed. We rarely understand the sheer weight of an event while living through it. Manchester-based photographer Sushil Nash realised this at the start of lockdown and decided to capture it.
Nash explores real people and shares their stories creatively and authentically. ‘Stay Home: Photographs of Life in Lockdown’ is a mesmerising book of photographs submitted by Mancunian people showing a snippet of their lives in lockdown.
Instead of following the crowd and capturing the “empty streets, boarded-up pubs, ominous signage… I wanted to tell a more human story” and explore “the experience of life in [the] new world”, he explained.
Nash’s documentary style of photography touches the heart of these stories. “I love when you see a photograph and straight away you’re asking questions – who is this person, where is this place, what’s going on here.”
The book began as a personal project between Nash and his friends; he had no plan as to what might become of the photos he received. “I found that, while it was becoming a really special thing on a personal level, I really wanted to see what a similar collection would look like if I approached a more diverse spread of demographics. So I put the request out to Manchester.”
Rooting the project in Manchester definitely had an impact on the submissions Nash received. “One of the themes that came through strongly was the change in our physical surroundings”. He continued, “there’s a lot of pride in the city, so I think that people here are always happy to have it represented”.
“I do think Manchester has an admirable ability to find a bit of light in a shitty situation, keep its chin up, and keep looking forward.”
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For Nash, lockdown has been an opportunity to reflect on his role as a photographer. He has always struggled to press pause. “For the first time, I feel like I’ve got a really clear understanding of what I want to do with my photography – and that is to tell stories about people’s relationship with identity, culture, and community.”
“I hope that some of the pages will feel familiar and remind me of my own lockdown experience, while others feel unfamiliar and give me an insight into how others have lived this.”
“Creativity is a huge part of the way we understand the world around us”: it will “offer us so much insight into [how] Covid impacted us on a human level”. Sushil also stressed the importance of protecting the creative industries because “these jobs aren’t just something that keeps someone doing what they’re passionate about – these are jobs that ensure rent can be paid and food can be bought, just like any other.”
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Historically, times of hardship have tended to spark a rise in artistic and innovative output. “Perhaps art is a way of processing the situation and attempting to make sense of it,” he said. Nash was especially motivated by “an urge to see how those around me were dealing with this new reality and to have something I can use in the future to reflect on my own experience too.”
Nash hopes this book can be “some kind of creative… ‘souvenir’ (for want of a better word) to take away from this weird time.” He also wants to give back to the community that has supported the creation of this unique collection by donating all profits from the book to Manchester’s homeless community.
For the rest of the year, Nash is focusing on the second iteration of his book that is now open for submissions from all across the UK and Ireland. You can share your submission via the project’s website or by emailing email@example.com.