CityLife Arts

Calling on photographers to submit Covid social distancing photographs and be rewarded

This call is by the world renowned Market Photo Workshop

By Edward Tsumele

Difficult events confronting human beings and threatening their existence, such as this time of the global Covid 19 pandemic, often call for artistic responses from artists, such as writers, painters, music composers, filmmakers, essayists, cartoonists and playwrights.

In South Africa artists are doing their bit to contribute their voice and cement their foot print to global responses to the outbreak of the coronavirus that has spread throughout the world within a short space of time, just like a wildfire in the Amazon forests, causing immense destructions of both lives and economies in the in its wake.

For example, the now extended RMB Turbine Art Fair, which is now open to collectors to visit and buy art until September 13, having been extended from its initial closing date of September 7, has a new section of photography entitled Stilled Life https://turbineartfair.co.za/projects. This call for entry was open to the public, not necessarily professional photographers, to document their lives while in lockdown.

Such popular events like the xiTsonga choral competition such as this one will have to wait for the right time because of  the current social distancing regulations. Picture By Giyani Baloi.

These entries are as exciting as they are diverse, and the quality of the entries are also something to talk about for years to come. The arrival of the smart phone in modern civilization is definitely being put to good use by the public, especially in this case.

Now the world renowned Market Photo Workshop in Newtown  is calling for photographers to investigate the tricky issue of social distancing during the time of Covid 19, and photographically dissect this social phenomenon. This investigation of the difficulties around social distancing, is particularly important in the context of a country, such as South Africa where levels of inequalities are huge, and  in some instances, especially in poor areas such as informal settlements, socil distancing remains a pipe dream, even in the face of the threat of Covid 19.

And this is not because people are unaware of the danger of being close to each other during these difficult times, it is just impossible to exercise social distancing in situations where for example, one shack for a home in these poverty stricken areas, accommodates on average five people.

The difficulty associated with social distancing under these circumstances of overcrowding in especially in informal settlements and townships was well documented by the media at the beginning of the lockdown. 

For example at one such informal settlement, west of Johannesburg,  asked by reporters why a large number of the people were milling around  in large groups in the streets instead finding comfort and safety in their homes, they responded ironically that they felt much safer outside their homes than inside because inside their homes they were just too many of them living in one shack, rendering social distancing impossible under such circumstances.

It will therefore be interesting to see to what extent the entries for this call will interpret the phenomenon of social distancing in a country grappling with poverty and overcrowding in some of its residential settlements, and yet in other instances the rich live in big walled homes that have large manicured gardens  that fit the description of a mini-FNB Stadium. This is indeed a country of interesting contrasts and social contradictions.

A man passes two homeless people on a Joburg street. Picture By Giyani Baloi

 And this call’s instructions are simple and straight forward. “The JUSTPHOTO Contest intends to draw attention to the role photography plays in setting social justice agendas. During these unprecedented times of the global health challenge of COVID-19, JUSTPHOTO calls on photographers to ethically investigate practices of social distancing that will be part of our collective futures.

Communities all over the world are being required to adhere to distancing protocols and the JUSTPHOTO Competition asks, what is social distancing? What are its personal and collective effects where we live?

How can social distancing be reimagined within contexts where contact cannot be avoided such as in the arts, schools, churches, hospitals, sports or in multi-generational households and public transportation, or between lovers, caregivers, and the vulnerable? What are we not seeing when it comes to keeping social distance? What can photography show us?

The JUSTPHOTO Contest seeks to promote new photography works of social responsibility, activism and ethical investigation by African photographers practising in Africa,” the cal, states.

The call closes on Friday, September 11, and so get your submission in as soon as possible.

Please see the link below on how to submit + details on the prizes:

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