Bedford photos that captured Covid lockdown to go on show

A photographer who captured photos of people during the first Covid-19 lockdown said it made her feel “useful”.

Chiara Mac Call, from Bedford, took the images as part of her permitted daily exercise and helped her cope with her own anxiety.

The first photo she shot was a self-portrait of herself and her husband on 24 March 2020 and her last one was taken a few weeks later on 13 May.

An exhibition of her images, called Life through Windows – Overcoming Distance, will be on display at the Place Theatre Bedford from 15 February to 31 March with an evening of reflection on Friday 16 February.

A photo of Chiara Mac Call, Morgan Nash and Polly the catIMAGE SOURCE,CHIARA MAC CALL
Image caption,

The first image Chiara took was a self-portrait with husband Morgan Nash and Polly the cat captured remotely with a tripod set up in the garden

Ms Mac Call, 47, who was born in Rome and is of Italian/Irish decent, has lived in Bedford for nine years.

She began her project by taking photos of friends to give her something to do, and then as her images were shared on social media, she was contacted by other people, so took pre-planned socially distanced images.

A woman wearing a face mask outside a house in BedfordIMAGE SOURCE,CHIARA MAC CALL
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Chiara would take about 20 images at each location and then select the best one

“It’s not only the photos of the people but the visual narrative of empty streets and signs and peoples in windows.

“Walking and going on those journeys was my way of managing my own anxiety and trying to find a way to feel useful in a situation, when there was very little each of us could do.”

Image caption,

Chiara captured portraits of people as well as signs and object on her daily walks but did not share them online at the time, she said

She said the images were not a “true snapshot” of the time, as they were posed.

“It was five minutes of doing something else than listening to catastrophic news or dealing with homework on one laptop and working out where they could get their next toilet roll from.”

Three people standing in a window in BedfordIMAGE SOURCE,CHIARA MAC CALL
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Chiara got to know My Girl The River singer-songwriter, Kris Wilkinson Hughes (right), as part of her project and she will appear at her talk on 16 February

She believes the project had its “own limitations, it was a window in time, but not the window”.

“It doesn’t express the full experience and diversity of Bedford.”

She said she chose not to photograph medical establishments as “they had enough going on”.

Two people standing in a doorway in BedfordIMAGE SOURCE,CHIARA MAC CALL
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All images were taken in accordance to the social distancing rules that were in place at the time

Kathryn Hale, who had her image taken, said: “Chiara brought an unexpected warm smile, an ear, an empathy, an understanding.

“She reached out to me at a time that couldn’t have been more perfect.

“I was not alone and her photos bought me an immense amount of pride, peace, understanding and community in an otherwise desperate time of my life.”

Image caption,

Emily Ross (right) said it “helped us connect by seeing friendly local faces at a time we were all, necessarily, living in much solitude and isolation, both physically and mentally”

Life through Windows – Overcoming Distance will be on display from Thursday 15 February to Sunday 31 March with an evening of reflection at the theatre on Friday 16 February.

Two people holding two cats in a window in BedfordIMAGE SOURCE,CHIARA MAC CALL
Image caption,

The images showed people smiling and happy, which was not always a true expression of how people were feeling, Chiara said

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