From Truro to Harrogate, portraits of British people and their experiences of 2020 feature in a new exhibition by the Empathy Museum, which considers what the pandemic has taught us about empathy this year, as well as exploring resilience, wellbeing, interdependence and what sustains us during challenging times.
Made in collaboration with the NHS and The Health Foundation, From Where I'm Standing will be available to view online at empathymuseum.com from 10 December with each portrait accompanied by an audio story and a photograph of an object that reflects the time period for each individual.
Intended to create a museum archive of the year, we see and hear from nurses and doctors, an Imam working in the Nightingale, an undertaker, a rapper, the Director of Longterm Planning for the NHS, checkout staff and a care home entertainer who secured the job to see her dad.
The project has four strands shot by four award-winning photographers: ten stories from frontline health, social care and public health professionals, collected in collaboration with NHS England and the Health Foundation shot by Myah Jeffers; ten from nursing and midwifery shot by Lottie Davies; seven exploring the diversity of experience in lockdown such as new parents and students by Tim Mitchell; seven celebrating local heroes nominated by their community including stories from a great neighbour, a laundrette owner and the leader of the house gospel choir by Amit Lennon.
This is what we've come to expect from the Empathy Museum: it creates immersive projects that help us to look at the world through other people's eyes. Its work is built around the model of an alternative high street, where each project takes the form of a shop where we're invited for "human interaction rather than a consumer experience".
So far, the Empathy Museum has created a shoe shop – the award-winning A Mile in My Shoes (AMIMS) which had 50,000 visitors – and a crowd-sourced library, 1001 Books. From Where I'm Standing continues the journey along the 'High Street' taking up residence in Brixton, where the Museum is based and will act as an estate agent from 10 December. The photographs along with QR codes for audio will be installed on 'for sale' signs along Dalberg Road. There are plans for further street installations around the UK.
"In a world rife with division and in the midst of a pandemic, listening to these storytellers, with all the wisdom, kindness and generosity of spirit that they share, has inspired me, moved me to tears at times and ultimately given me a renewed faith in humanity," says Clare Patey, founder of the Museum.
Amit Lennon specialises in intimate portraits. His work encompasses subjects as diverse as UK prison reform, coal mining in the arctic, stargazing in Chile's Atacama Desert, or remaking the FA cup. He was commissioned by the House of Commons to create a series of portraits of MPs, for its permanent collection to be displayed in the Palace of Westminster.
Lottie Davies is a BAFTA-nominated travel, editorial and fine art photographer. She has won recognition in numerous awards, including the Association of Photographers’ Awards, the International Color Awards, and the Schweppes Photographic Portrait Awards. Her work garnered international acclaim with the image Quints, which won First Prize at the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Awards 2008 at the National Portrait Gallery. Her fine artwork is concerned with stories and personal histories, the tales and myths we use to structure our lives: memories, life-stories, beliefs.
Myah Jeffers is a Barbadian-British documentary and portrait photographer, dramaturg and director. She is currently the Literary Associate at The Royal Court and the 2019 Portrait of Britain winner. Her work in both theatre and photography is focused on black experiences and aims to use portraiture to illuminate black and queer joy as acts of resistance.
Tim Mitchell is a widely published photographic artist and educator taking on commissions around the UK and abroad. He has staged major exhibitions at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Derby Museums, Horniman Museum, Photofusion, Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg, Cambridge Sustainability Residency and PhotoEast and has work currently touring Europe.
The project is funded by Arts Council England, NHS England and the Health Foundation.