Photography project captures life in Leeds during pandemic

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18/10/2021

The intimate stories of 12 people living and working in Leeds through the COVID-19 pandemic have been captured in a poignant new photography project.

Through a series of compelling and thought-provoking images, the 19cms exhibition documents a unique chapter in the history of Leeds, exploring the human impact of the pandemic as the city emerges from one of its most challenging years.

Photojournalist Jude Vidal, supported by Leeds City Council and Walker Morris, BJSS and Rushbond, has spent the past six months speaking with and photographing a dozen individuals who live and work in communities in Leeds, each with their own unique experiences.

The exhibition’s title refers to the 19cm Jude discovered the daughter of one of her subjects had grown during the 18 months she was unable to see her grandma during lockdown. This sparked her idea to find out what those “19cms of time” had meant to other people in Leeds.

Her other subjects have included a Harehills barber who retrained as an electrician after lockdown hit his business particularly hard and a local TV producer who contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and has since struggled with the debilitating symptoms of long COVID.

Also photographed is a former long-serving intensive care nurse who was drafted back into front line healthcare during the height of the pandemic and who found solace in her garden at home.

Other people who feature include a dancer, a refuse collector, a construction worker, and a chef.

The full collection of photos are now set to go on display next month in an exhibition at the newly-redeveloped First White Cloth Hall, one of the city’s most historic buildings.

Visit the website here.

Jude said:

“My 19cms has been a rollercoaster too, and this project has been challenging work, emotional work. The ebb and flow of people’s lives as they navigate the pandemic has been intense at times. But I feel I am documenting history, our human history, and as a photojournalist it doesn’t get any better than that.

“I have tried to select people who represent the diversity and scope of the city. People from different backgrounds, doing very different jobs, representing a slice of human life, illustrating what we are all going through during this time.

I hope that this project will resonate with all of us in some way. Maybe their stories will inspire, maybe they will make you feel you that you are not alone, or maybe they will just be an interesting piece of art for you to immerse yourself in in a quiet moment. I’d like to thank the council and all of the sponsors for their fantastic support in making this project happen.”

As well as being displayed at the First White Cloth Hall, the images will also be available for the public to view online, with further plans to display them at other venues around the city being explored.

Malcolm Simpson, Managing partner at Walker Morris commented:

“Sponsorship of the Arts has played a central role in our strategy for many years. Above all we believe in making art accessible to everyone and actively support pioneering projects like 19cm.

 “The project tells the extraordinary story of a city coming out of a global pandemic – the highs and the lows – capturing this unique moment in history through the lives of 12 ordinary yet fascinating individuals. It’s a story that resonates with us all and of course, it’s told through the lens of our home city, Leeds.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and sport, said:

“Each of us has experienced the pandemic in our own unique way and we all have stories to tell about the enormous impact the past 18 months have had on us.

“It’s important that we record and document the many incredible ways that our city responded to the pressure, intensity and adversity of the pandemic and that we never forget the sacrifices that were made or the compassion that was shown by the people of Leeds.

“I hope that as well as being a lasting tribute, these photographs will inspire others to share their own stories with one another as collectively we look ahead to a brighter future.”

The 19cm exhibition will be open to the public at the First White Cloth Hall from November 3-5 until 7pm and will also be available to see online after the launch.

Earlier this month Walker Morris announced it was partnering with national charity, Heart Research, to support it’s anonymous heART project for 2021 and 2022. Learn more here.

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