A doorstep story: Curtis Jehsta captures what both connected and differed in our collective experience of lockdown
Photographing individuals with the one item that got them through lockdown, this reminiscent series paints an honest picture of what kept us going during the pandemic.
- Grace Lister
- 4 May 2021
As we edge out into the world again many of us have begun to look back on a year of lockdowns here in the UK. A body of work offering a reminder of this time is Curtis Jehsta’s Lifeline, a photographic series of portraits capturing the daily rituals, escapes and comfort blankets individuals formed to offer a lifeline in lockdown. From the matching walking sticks to adoring cats and boardgames, it’s the subtleties that Curtis appears to capture — the objects, activities, and companionships that saw us through those restricted times. It’s a reminiscent series, and despite depicting such recent history, it also lets our curiosity wander via Curtis’ portraiture.
With only himself and his own four walls during the first lockdown, Curtis’ imagination led him to ponder on what those around him could be up to. It’s this curiosity that sparked Lifeline into fruition, turning to his best friend first, and asking to take a portrait with “the one thing that is getting you through it,” he tells It’s Nice That. From this first snap, Curtis saw potential and so casted his net wider, asking other friends and neighbours for their portraits too. Even though each individual’s chosen object and situation differs, what speaks in volume across the series is the common ground it shares with the viewers, “the relatability of it,” he says. “The whole world was going through a very strange time, yet anyone could relate to any of these stories.”
For a project such as Lifeline, intuition took centre stage in Curtis’ creative process “letting the world around me spark an idea, ”as he puts it. Deciding not to follow a particular plan, but instead let creative freedom organically take shape, it wasn’t until all the photos had been edited that the photographer looked at the series as a whole, and saw the narrative naturally form.
Individual narratives are therefore highlighted in particular imagery from the series. For example, one photograph sheds light on a decade-long friendship of Curtis’ who, despite not being raised with religion, has taken the time “to really indulge in his roots and learn more about himself and his culture,” says the photographer. Selecting another favourite photograph from Lifeline, Curtis picks out an image of a family led by their dad in his swim shorts. “Most families where I live don’t have a pool,” he explains, “so I wasn’t expecting someone to walk out their front door half dressed, with goggles on their head.” The portrait has a touch of silliness, but it’s a real snapshot of how this individual had taken to the water to splash out.
Despite these individual highlights, there’s a collective strength that carries across the series, evoking an unshakable feeling that we have got through this pandemic together. Curtis’ photography topic and style gravitates towards the truth in our lives, now leading him to work on a condensed memoir on one of his friends featured in Lifeline. Moving forward this will expand to depict his overall compelling lifestyle, his upbringing and addictions. As our world becomes more familiar with embracing real talk and the truth of daily life, Curtis’ upcoming project is sure to be another dose of realness.
Creating a body of work that reminds us that creativity has the potential to draw out the truth and frame our world, for now Curtis hopes that everyone who views the project finds “something that they can relate to and finds solace in the fact that they are not alone. We are all stuck in this situation and dealing with it in our own ways and doing the best we can,” he says. “Have that glass of wine or complete your tenth puzzle, if that’s what gets you through.”
GalleryCurtis Jehsta: Lifeline (Copyright © Curtis Jehsta 2021)
About the Author
Grace joined It’s Nice That on a freelance basis in April 2021, alongside completing Make Your Own Masters. She works as a freelance designer, researcher and writer, working on projects that look to emerging shifts and how creativity shapes this.