Photographer Bex Day is well known for empowering the overlooked and underrepresented through her striking photography. Based in London, we’ve delved into a number of her series in the past. Here for example, she raises awareness on the older transgender community and here, she focuses on disability funding cuts for a shoot for Riposte Issue 12. Today, Bex gives light to yet another group, Children of Covid, a series examining the emotional and physical implications of Covid-19 on children between the ages of 4–12.
Featuring portraits taken by Bex, the project is accompanied by text written by the child or parent. It details the way Covid-19 has altered the subject’s psyche from the unique perspective of a child or parent developing over lockdown. The idea for Children of Covid came about when the photographer was living with a friend and her baby. She tells us how the baby’s speech “was delayed due to lack of socialisation at play groups and nursery,” due to the national lockdown. Interested in the theme of mental health, Bex wanted to know how other children and parents were coping during this time, and as the restrictions began to ease in the middle of last year, she knew “it was the right time to document children”. This realisation came at a time when Bex was working through “a lot of childhood stuff” at therapy, so she wanted to work with children as another way “of moving past that difficult time in my life and processing it effectively”.
Bex met her subjects through a number of ways including street casting, word of mouth and child modelling agencies. Each subject had a unique story to tell, and Bex became fascinated with each visit to the child’s house in question, seeing the idiosyncratic quirks of family life. The photographer tells us about a few of the children she photographed. Gabriel, a child living in Wimbledon, had brain surgery for his epilepsy not long before the shoot. Diagnosed with the condition at eight months old, he endured up to 70 seizures a day.
The surgery attempted to remove a cortical dysplasia but left him paralysed on his left side. After a lot of physiotherapy and occupational therapy, he is now left with a weakness. “He still has seizures,” says Bex, “as it was too dangerous to remove all the dysplasia but much fewer with the surgery.” To photograph Gabriel was a wonderful experience for Bex. She remembers his love of dancing and martial arts (“and he definitely brought amazing dance moves to the table”). He also wants to be a tree when he’s older, something he told Channel 4 in a micro documentary, an extension of Bex’s photo series.
Elsewhere in the series, Bex features Amaiah (who she saw in her local park) and Javanna, a little girl with her one-day-old baby sister. Having met Javanna and her sister in Richmond, Bex remembers, “I have never seen a baby that small in my life and the connection between them was so incredible. I really wanted to capture the bond and sensitivity between them. Thanks to their wonderful mother for accommodating us so soon after giving birth.” With a range of subjects in tow, for the series, Bex wanted to capture a mix of outdoor and indoor shots for variety. The aim was to include as many perspectives as possible in the series, shedding light on the kids’ diverse backgrounds and viewpoints depending on their age. With this in mind, the written aspect of the project became increasingly important; a way for the kids to say their bit personally and tell their story of how the pandemic has changed their lives.
Collaborating with hair stylist Tommy Taylor and stylist Adam Winder, the shoot puts the kids’ personalities centre stage while the backdrop and style of photography riffs off it. Beginning in July 2020, the lengthy project evidently extends throughout all four seasons, something Bex purposely wanted to include to make a statement on how long the pandemic has gone on for. She finally goes on to say of this uplifting project: “I realised I haven’t photographed many children before and I wanted to change this: they deserve to be heard too.” Just like adults, they are bored, missing their friends and want to get on with their lives.