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This project is exploring the impact of the pandemic on particular groups whose voices are not often heard and whose issues have been magnified in the past few years.

Open Eye Gallery is leading this project with photographers Ciara Leeming, Sam Ivin and Tadgh Devlin currently working with groups including young carers and rural communities.

Covid-19 Reflection

Lost Voices on Film

One of the major strands of Covid-19 Reflections was to engage with underrepresented communities. The resulting work by photographers Ciara Leeming, Tadhg Devlin and Sam Ivin is diverse and affecting. Filmmaker Jason Lock documented the process.

Tadhg Devlin Photo

What’s your background?  
I am originally from Dublin in Ireland and studied in Cornwall before moving to London and working as a freelance photographer for about 15 years. When I moved to the North West I wanted to concentrate more on personal and collaborative projects so divide my time between lecturing and projects like the 'Reflections' project.


Which project are you leading? 
I am working in rural areas of Cheshire West and Chester, trying to link up with different individuals, so have been in contact with local farmers to find out how the pandemic affected them as well as small businesses and also a care home. I am also hoping to link up with some young people from rural areas as their youth has been shaped by this strange period of time and I would be really interested to hear how it has affected them and their outlook on the future. 


Why did you want to work on this project?
It feels as if the pandemic never happened in some ways but I think the social ramifications will last a lot longer and this is a way to record the many different experiences of how people coped. Often the smaller aspects of people's lives that they can overlook can be poignant. 


What are your initial ideas of how it might take shape?
I realise the project is vast as there is such a variety of different voices so by working in rural areas it will hopefully give a platform to those who may have been overlooked throughout the past few years. 


What is your reflection on the pandemic?
At times it was stressful, other times it was surreal as we were living in some parallel world. My partner's mother passed away from Covid in December 2020 so I realise the very difficult times that many people had to endure during this period.


To see more about Tadhg work and other projects visit:

Q&A with Sam Ivin

Sam Ivin Photo

Q&A with Tadhg Devlin

What’s your background?

I’m a photographic artist who explores social issues and the people connected with them. By documenting their stories and perspectives I hope to provide a more personal, tangible understanding of them. My projects are often collaborative and encourage participants to explore photography, play and identity. Topics my work explores include human migration, seeking asylum and mental health.


I am interested in working with vulnerable people and making positive contributions to communities. My process usually involves visiting a community, facilitating a few workshops with them and then individually meeting up with participants to understand their story and create a portrait in collaboration with them. These photographic portraits are then manipulated or decorated to create a portrait that reflects the story or person.

In the past five years I have worked with a wide range of community groups and individuals, from working with refugees and migrants in Stoke-on-Trent to early years children at a pre-school in Southampton. I enjoy working with a variety of different people.


Why did you want to work on this project

The main reason is because I am interested in exploring under-represented voices and stories. I am also excited because I’ll be working alongside Open Eye gallery who are known for their expertise in socially engaged photography practice.


What are your initial ideas of how it might take shape?

I plan to find a community, location, or group of people that I am naturally curious about and offer to facilitate a series of creative photography workshops in that area. From there I will respond to the stories I come across and the people I speak to. I plan to create a series of manipulated portraits but time will tell how it looks or what the final outcome will be!


What is your reflection on the pandemic?

Personally a lot changed for me. As the pandemic began I was working as a carer part time at a nursing home, I got covid there and lost my sense of smell, moved, got engaged, got my smell back, ran the London Marathon and now here I am! It’s gone real quick.


In terms of my art practice I learnt how to make workshops happen remotely. During my Weston Shore commission with John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, we sent out activity packs and video instructions to the early years children we were working with - which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of pre-school staff. Learning how to facilitate online Zoom lessons (and make them engaging!) was another big learning curve.


To see more about Sam’s work and other projects visit:

Q&A with Ciara Leeming

Ciara Leeming Photo

What’s your background?

I’m a photographer who grew up in Wrexham but now lives in Manchester. I have gradually transitioned into socially engaged photography following a first career in print journalism – and the way I work is definitely influenced by that experience. Interviews and words are hugely important in both my research process and my final outputs. I have an interest in social affairs and themes which often crop up in my work include regeneration, homelessness, migration and mental health. I sometimes work with communities who have been poorly represented within the media, and my motivation there is to try to challenge the prevailing narratives. I spent four years collaborating with Eastern European Roma families, partly funded by Arts Council England and Side Gallery. In 2022 I ran a photography project at Cafe 71, a Chester mental health centre, and another at Wigan homelessness charity, The Brick.

Why did you want to work on this project

My first documentary photography series when I fell in love with the medium was a self-initiated body of work with English Romani families with links to Cheshire West. I hold a lot of respect and affection for Traveller culture and am always keen to build on my previous experience working with members of the community – and to find ways to make this work more collaborative and equitable than what I did in the past. While Covid is the peg (as we say in journalism) for this project, I always hope my projects will also explore a range of other territory too.

What are your initial ideas of how it might take shape?

I anticipate working with a range of individuals and families from across the region’s Traveller communities – namely Irish Travellers and English Romani – and who live on sites and in houses. The way I work is likely to be different depending on their interests – some may want to take photos themselves, for example, while others may prefer looking at family photo albums and chatting. Beyond that I am open minded and happy to see where the journey takes me. I have started having some initial introductions with possible participants this week.

What is your reflection on the pandemic?

Lockdown feels like a long time ago now but I am mindful that the pandemic has not really gone away – and some people are still feeling incredibly isolated and vulnerable even today. Speaking personally, it was a time of huge change, which resulted in my changing direction professionally. The current economic uncertainty, cost of living crisis and state of our services can all be traced back to the pandemic, at least in part, so its impact is not only about health, mental health and isolation, as important as these all are. It continues to ripple out in all directions and impact people (especially those already marginalised) in many ways.

To see more about Ciara’s work and other projects visit:

See our blog of how the project is progressing

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