As humans, we rarely seek out muffled life experiences. We yearn for focus and clarity. We demand high definition and authentic experiences whilst expecting both to be delivered seamlessly and at breakneck speed. Sucked into the centrifugal force of our digital culture, we’ve spent the last decade scrolling through other people’s lives, instead of strolling around in our own.

But then, a pandemic came along. What many assumed was just an overblown news story quickly became a global emergency. The word ‘lockdown’ infiltrated our everyday lingo, as nations across the world initiated new rules that urged us to stay indoors. Covid-19 temporarily altered the baseline by frightening the world into slowing down. Routines were shaken and commuter trains chugged along emptily, whilst we turned our minds inwards, between the four walls of home.

Just before the deadly-virus-white-knuckle-ride began, Mark Sanders and Chirag H Patel had just finished working on a photography project together. In February 2020, they’d made the final edit and started firming up arrangements for an exhibition later in the year. With plans temporarily scuppered, they parked the pictures on a hard drive and started making banana bread – just like everyone else. As days became weeks and weeks turned to months, the images began to take on a new kind of poignancy.

Bodies wistfully twisting around delicately deniered nylon. Freshly plucked blooms sellotaped to the inside of a windowpane. Resplendent oranges hastily packed into a plastic bag, ready for a doorstep delivery. Seemingly unexceptional scenes appeared frighteningly poetic, under the anxiety ridden conditions of a newly diseased atmosphere.

They captured the tension of enforced distance and the natural barrier between humankind and man-made objects. In a time when touch was prohibited, we began living in layers, behind membranes. Surgical masks, Perspex screens and invisible social distancing forcefields were part of the daily rigmarole, part of the grind and partly responsible for dividing opinions about truth and conspiracy.

The Diffusion Series had started as a concept to capture the softness of warm scattered sunlight. An urge to record the way it wraps around objects without shadows or harsh glare, these nourishing, peachy undertones are reminiscent of nakedness, skin and new beginnings. The true scientific definition cites kinetic energy; molecules forever in motion, colliding with one another until they finally become uniform. And as we gingerly take steps back to normality after such chaos, we can be sure one of thing – with a renewed sense of gratitude for our species, there will be unity once again. 

Words: Leanne Cloudsdale