Last September, at the very start of the second wave of coronavirus, I took early retirement. I had been suffering a lot of stress and anxiety and the pandemic only served to increase these issues. So, using savings, I decided to self-fund the next two years and start to live my life for me.
The plan was to devote myself full time to my photography, to visit places at home and abroad, meet new people, discover new experiences and go for my L. That was the idea. Then, within days, the cases increased and before you knew it, we were back into restrictions and lockdowns.
Change of plan. What could I photograph that would keep me busy, keep me local and I could do within guidelines? The answer came to me one afternoon while I was strolling through Birkenhead Park, the world’s first purpose-built park of its kind and the model for Central Park in New York. I would tell its story. A year in the life of Birkenhead Park. The events, if any, the people, the colours, the changes. A set of documentary pictures depicting its story over 12 months. And so, I started, there and then. September 9th 2020.
At the time of writing, it is an on-going project with a good 4 months left. So far, I have documented it throughout three seasons and met some extraordinary people.
I want my pictures to show the character and characters of the park. It is a living entity and is so important to people, especially during this current crisis. I want to show how it was used despite the lockdown. How people came to depend on it and how it provided health benefits, both physical and emotional, to its visitors. I want to tell the story of how it’s role changes with each passing season.
To help me better record the changing seasons, the changing moods and the ever-changing vibrancy I decided to shoot the project on different cameras and different media. Some days I take my Canon 5D and 200mm lens, other days I will take my Holga and a roll of Ilford HP5 or even a Leica D-Lux for the street photography feel. Each camera makes me shoot a different style meaning I see the park very differently every time I visit. I look for different things and I shoot in a different way.
One of the first images I took on this project and one of my favourites was of a gentleman sitting on a park bench looking towards cricket sightscreens and an empty pitch. I called the picture “Waiting for the cricket match”. It seemed to sum up 2020 when we all sat, alone, waiting for something to happen.
The Park has offered me a lifeline over this past winter. Not only as a place to practice my photography but also as a refuge from the claustrophobia as we all waited for the cricket match.