TPL: The past year and a half has been tough on many artists. How have you been feeling through this time, both personally and as a photographer?
CS: The mantra I have chanted in my head over and over is that I am not alone and I am not the only one going through this, the whole world is faced with this crazy awful circumstance. Melbourne, where I live, has endured a total of 6 months in hard lockdown. At times it was really hard seeing people on social media in the rest of Australia living life and doing normal things, but I know that in the rest of the world people were struggling much more than we were.
I’m fully vaccinated now, so in theory I’d like to take on work overseas again, but Australia has made it very difficult to get back into the country, so we’ll have to wait a bit more to see. Meanwhile, I am pursuing local stories and assignments. I teach photography one day a week at a private university and in that I find inspiration and joy – being able to share what I love about photography.
I feel we are really very lucky to have a safe and comfortable place to stay in our lockdown in Melbourne when many other people had a terrible time and experienced terrible circumstances. I was able to get a few jobs during this time as an essential worker, working within the media for the New York Times to photographically report on some of their stories.
For example, the Times ran a pitch that I sent them on the Melbourne public housing high-rise towers that went into a snap hard lockdown in 2020. The people in those towers had no warning of the lockdown. The buildings were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of police and residents had no idea why. It was really traumatic for a lot of the residents, some of whom had come from war-torn countries where they had been traumatized in the past. Many families had young children in small two-bedroom apartments with up to 8 people living in them, it was not at all well managed by the government. The residents had no time to prepare for this and they had a really tough time. Of course, none of the residents argued that a hard lockdown was unnecessary, but the way it was implemented caused much angst. In fact, it was found by the Victorian Ombudsman that the North Melbourne public housing lockdown breached human rights.