A Preston photographer has collected portraits and stories from people in the city affected by the coronavirus pandemic.Advertisement
Garry Cook’s project, Proud Preston People, features a diverse range of experiences that offer an insight into lockdown in the city.
Cook said: “This was the most unusual set of images I have ever produced – the entire project was conceived and completed under lockdown, observing social distancing guidelines.
“I was able to talk to everyone but this felt like a different way of meeting people. These encounters and the wonderful things people had to say were a heartwarming – and sometimes heartbreaking – experience.”
Victoria Rigbye: “Welcoming our daughter in lockdown has been a humbling experience. With plenty of family time to bond, we have had many highs and created amazing memories, but we have still had low times. Unable to introduce our new family member properly to family and friends has been hard. In Lockdown 2020 our hearts got bigger.”
Ade Jebb: “It’s been a strange time. I’ve actually enjoyed being at home with my family as it’s helped me reflect on how much time I used to spend at work or doing other things. It’s also given me a great chance to reflect on my emotional and mental health and some difficult experiences growing up, which in all honesty I’d been keeping a lid on. In recent weeks I’ve started missing my friends and I still haven’t really had the chance to go anywhere or do anything, apart from some long walks to help me keep the weight off! One thing I have learnt is that I make a terrible teacher and hopefully our son won’t hold it against me in years to come!”
Kailash Parekh: “Life in lockdown has been about reflecting on life and about valuing and appreciating family and friends. It’s been about working together with all the community as one big family to help others. Real community spirit and goodwill.”
Eve Chester: “Though I’m not born and bred Preston, this city took in various of my relatives over the last 100 years. No fuss and feathers but Preston’s message ‘there’s room for everyone’ is definitely one Preston can take pride in, and I’m grateful for the welcome given my relatives.”
Mitz Kandola: “Lockdown has been about being positive and hopeful. I have thoroughly enjoyed going out for one exercise a day. It gave me the opportunity to do outdoor running, something I contemplated but would not have had the chance to do. Running through Moor Park has been such an uplifting experience. The cherry blossom framing a beautiful park that was once just a thought. The sun shining on my face, charging my mind, the simplicity of mother nature reminding me to just pause and breathe.”
Eric Hastewell: “I lost my wife on the first day of lockdown. It was a huge shock as she had always been so fit and healthy. It was our 60th wedding anniversary that weekend and we should have been having a big family celebration… but she died on the Monday morning.”
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Cook says he has felt honoured to meet the people featured in his photos.
He said: “Meeting people like Eric, who lost his wife during lockdown, and Victoria, who gave birth during lockdown, was a huge privilege. But I also loved the joy that people expressed of living in Preston, whether they were born here or moved to the city just a few years ago.
“A great example of this is a wonderful woman called Maija, who moved here from Latvia, via Padiham. She has done so much for this city, hosting a weekly writing club and taking part in so many arts events. She is why this city’s diversity is so successful.
“And Glenda Andrew, who does so much amazing community work for the Windrush generation and has been delivering meals during lockdown, posed for me so proudly and said ‘I love Preston and Preston loves me too’. People like Glenda and Maija are Preston.”
Cook believes Preston’s photographers can make a big difference to the city as it emerges from lockdown.
He said: “A lot of people do not realise that Preston has an unusually strong photography community. As the city looks to redefine itself, I think photographs and photographers can be hugely influential in defining its cultural identity.
“I hope this project can be the first of many image-led projects that can boost the profile of the city nationally, and bring the arts to many more of its residents.
“It was brilliant to be able to do this project in Preston, and I am so thankful to everyone involved for the commission.”
Cook is now hoping to raise funds to exhibit the project.
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The Proud Preston People project was funded by Preston Cultural Framework Board, which is backed by the Brewtime Collective, Curious Minds, Preston City Council and UCLan. It’s one of 30 micro-commissions they have funded during the lockdown.
Find out more on the Something’s Brewing website, where you can also view all the photos and stories from Proud Preston People.
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What do you think of the Proud Preston People project? Do you know any of the people featured? Let us know in the comments.