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The Comedy of Errors

Grandad: A Photo Series Showing The Isolation of the Older Generation During Lockdown By Photographer Naomi Williams

26 April 21 interview: LeftLion
photos: Naomi Williams

It was a single beam of light which inspired Notts-born and Bristol-based photographer Naomi Williams’ Grandad, a series which explores the feeling of loneliness during a global pandemic, and how the interiors of a house represent a person through their belongings...

Can you tell us a bit about your photography series, Grandad?
My series is an insight into the life of my Grandad during the pandemic. I wanted to show the feelings of loneliness and isolation faced during a global pandemic by focusing in on my grandad’s present life whilst contrasting this with images of his life from the past, reflecting on life before the pandemic. 

What was the inspiration behind the series?
I have always been inspired by my Grandad's unique way of living and the belongings he holds in his home. He has lived in that house for 49 years, which was once his family home and the place he brought my mum up in.

I was also influenced by Latoya Ruby Frazier, an American photographer. I was intrigued by the way she views her family members, in her series, The Notion of Family

How did you first approach the subject matter?
The first image I took for this series was an image of the draining board, with the pot lids and the rosemary. I just looked around and thought, ‘my Grandad is so interesting!’ The sunlight was hitting the pot lid perfectly, nothing was staged and I just knew I needed to photograph it. I didn’t go into the series thinking that I wanted to make a series. I just wanted to photograph cool stuff, which then turned into something bigger.

The images were captured during the first lockdown – how universal do you think the feelings of isolation and loneliness represented in the photos were amongst older people all over Britain?
I can only imagine how lonely and isolated older people would be feeling in lockdown, especially people that live alone. Seeing the emotion this pandemic has brought among people, I hope that my images give people a sense of warmth and hope.

The sunlight was hitting the pot lid perfectly, nothing was staged and I just knew I needed to photograph it

How personal was this project to you?
This has been one of my most personal projects. It’s the only project I’ve done where I have focused on a close family member, so this series is very personal to me. Some of the images show the vulnerability of my Grandad, so I have had to consider his privacy and respect his boundaries and really think about what I should and should not post.

Where has the series been showcased so far?
The series has been exhibited with the UK Black Female Photographers twice. One in Walsall and one Birmingham. I was also published in The Guardian and was interviewed on BBC News Midlands. I also have upcoming exhibitions this year.

What has the reaction been like?
The reaction has been amazing! Everyone has been so kind in asking how my Grandad is and have been genuinely interested in where I plan to take the project. In the past I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome, so the reaction for this series has been overwhelming but has also helped me to overcome it.

What are your next plans for the project?
I hope to capture more moments of my Grandad's life and create a photobook of images based on him.

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