Spotlight: New work

Public Source is building a collaborative archive of life during COVID-19

"To protect elderly people, we try to avoid contact as much as possible, which is hard, because many older people feel isolated. I talked to my wife's grandma through a window this afternoon." Carinthia, Austria, 16 March 2020. © Arnold Pöschl.

“One of the main things we wanted to address is that there are so many small narratives,” says the Manchester-based publishing company, who are calling for photographers and writers to submit their stories

In the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, photographer Arnold Pöschl photographed his wife’s grandmother as they caught up through a glass window to prevent infection, and captured residents as they played music from their balconies to lift the spirits of their quarantined neighbours. In Shanghai, China, Jack Springthorpe documented tourists gathering at the city’s unusually quiet skyline before the nationwide lockdown, and along the borders of Italy, Matteo de Mayda began to document the temporary structures used to enforce Slovenia’s border control.

These are some of the stories that are being gathered for the COVID-19 Archive, an ongoing online project from PublicSource, the Manchester-based publishers behind photography magazine Then There Was Us. The aim is to feature work by photographers and writers from across the globe who are recording life during the outbreak of coronavirus, (COVID-19).

Gorizia, Italy, March 2020. © Matteo de Mayda.
In Shanghai, some taxis put plastic screens between the passenger and driver. © Jack Springthorpe.

“One of the main things we wanted to address is that there are so many small narratives, and we want to show a really broad scope of what is happening,” says photographer, lecturer, and designer James Wrigley, who co-founded PublicSource with Jonathan Tomlinson. “The photographs might just be of a temporary border, but you’ll never see these kinds of images again and we want to document that.” After conceiving the idea last week, and coding the website on Friday night after work, Wrigley and the team called on their community to submit images, and so far have uploaded the work of five photographers in China, Italy, US, Germany, and Austria.

Shanghai, China. © Jack Springthorpe.
© Arnold Pöschl.

“This is an invisible issue,” says Wrigley, who is, to some extent, being selective about the kind of work the website will be uploading. There are bound to be many images of empty streets and supermarkets, but what they are looking for are individual stories, of how photographers and writers around the world are navigating these strange times. They are also looking for written work, and have been in touch with a contributor who is currently writing a quarantine diary.

“We wanted to stay away from adding to the scaremongering,” says Wrigley. “When I saw the videos of everyone in Italy singing from their balconies, I thought, that is such a powerful thing to watch. We are not in a position to help fund artists who are losing money, but this archive is our way of trying to put something positive together.”

Visit covid19.publicsource.xyz to view the archive. To submit your work, email info@publicsource.xyz

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