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Today, we’re featuring a poignant and moving series from documentary photographer, Nicola Muirhead. Nicola documented the pandemic on Polaroid film and then used cleaners and chemicals to alter the Polaroids revealing a deeper portrayal of this time. Here is more from Nicola about creating this series…
‘Unseen’ is an ongoing series of Polaroid pictures taken at the start of the pandemic in London from March 2020 till now. Like most people, when the pandemic hit – everything stopped. The world entered what felt like a science fiction novel, unraveling before us. It was that feeling of the unknown and this otherworldly reality that became the motivation behind this project.
I started investigating ways in which I could metaphorically ‘reveal’ this unseen virus in my pictures, to expose its lurking presence in the skin and air – marking this time and place in our history. I started to experiment with cleaning products, interfering with the image like the virus had interfered with us, putting each Polaroid through a ritualistic “disinfecting” process using water, sanitizer, soap, bleach, Dettol, and other household cleaners. I was using the very products meant to keep us safe in our homes, and from each other, to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The work then became a visual exploration into the psychological landscape of the Coronavirus. A silent and invisible invader of our daily lives and how we, as a society, are struggling to adapt to its presence, as the waves of transmission continue to sweep across the globe.
The results varied for each Polaroid, some images morphed into dream like paintings, while others turned into lucid swirls of color. Many appeared almost apocalyptic and dystopian – mirroring the intensity and volatility of the world, both socially and environmentally, under the pressure of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Now, as vaccines are distributed across many parts of the world, can we dare to dream for the lives we once held before COVID-19?
Our perceptions of the familiar will be approached with a subconscious foreboding; simple moments will be questioned and monitored; mental health will become a household discussion and a new way of life is inevitable as the virus continues to morph and change into new strains.
This series is a meditation on this new reality, in all its forms.