Photographer captures life during coronavirus pandemic

HUGS ON HOLD: Margaret Wheeler and her granddaughter Alice Sarah-Lay, meet through the glass at the Trentham Aged Care Facility. Restrictions during the time of the coronavirus mean many families have limited, if any access, to their loved ones in care. Picture: Sandy Scheltema
HUGS ON HOLD: Margaret Wheeler and her granddaughter Alice Sarah-Lay, meet through the glass at the Trentham Aged Care Facility. Restrictions during the time of the coronavirus mean many families have limited, if any access, to their loved ones in care. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

Documenting how families and individuals' lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic is important for the history books, one Victorian Hepburn Shire photographer says.

Trentham freelance photographer Sandy Scheltema has been undertaking 'The Driveway Project' since May, in an effort to record and share how the lives of people living in her town have changed and what challenges they have faced since the onset of COVID-19.

Initially Ms Scheltema undertook the project with the assistance of a grant from Hepburn Shire Council, though recently she was "rapt" to receive a $5000 Sustaining Creative Workers grant to continue with the project and to expand it to record stories from neighbouring towns.

The photo documentary series, titled "Life in the Time of Coronavirus in Central Victoria" will follow on from the preceding project and will revolve around the same theme of photographing families and individuals on their driveways.

Often taken with a long lens to adhere to social distancing, Ms Scheltema has been photographing individuals and families with objects that have been integral to their lives during the pandemic - be it a musical instrument, easel, rolling pin or a bike.

Life in lockdown has been a chance for rediscovery for Sally and Peter Young of Trentham. Sally rekindled her skills in knitting, jigsaw puzzling and baking while Peter turned to cartooning for the first time in decades as a way of finding a lock down laugh. They both miss being able to see their grandchildren. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

Life in lockdown has been a chance for rediscovery for Sally and Peter Young of Trentham. Sally rekindled her skills in knitting, jigsaw puzzling and baking while Peter turned to cartooning for the first time in decades as a way of finding a lock down laugh. They both miss being able to see their grandchildren. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

She also asks them about their experiences of living through the pandemic and about any challenges they have been faced with.

As a photographer who lost a lot of freelance work with the onset of the pandemic, the project was a way for Ms Scheltema to adapt to "a new way of life".

And with a background in photojournalism, compiling a record of stories with accompanying photographs was important to form a historical record of such an "extraordinary time".

I am trying to capture a snapshot of history. It is really important to document what is going on at the moment.

Sandy Scheltema

"I am trying to capture a snapshot of history. It is really important to document what is going on at the moment," Ms Scheltema said.

Ms Scheltema said the project had been very well-received - especially during the lockdown period, when it became a way to connect community members, so they could see what their friends and neighbours were doing to keep themselves occupied.

"It's really just a way of helping people feel connected. They can hear what others are doing and tell their stories too," Ms Scheltema said.

So far she has photographed a diverse range of people: an intensive care nurse who works in the area of organ donation, a couple who had an "isolation wedding", a local chef and families who have been busy homeschooling and planting vegetable patches.

In addition, she has photographed a granddaughter who visited her grandmother through the glass at the Trentham Aged Care facility - a theme she wants to expand on.

Andrew Shaw made the most of lockdown tending to his garden and helping bring a bit of cheer to all those who walked past.He pulled down his back fence and turned it into a carport and created an English garden out the front.He missed being able to see friends and go out to restaurants. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

Andrew Shaw made the most of lockdown tending to his garden and helping bring a bit of cheer to all those who walked past.He pulled down his back fence and turned it into a carport and created an English garden out the front.He missed being able to see friends and go out to restaurants. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

"I want to also depict other issues which are affecting us. I'm interested in people's stories and how coronavirus is affecting them and their families," Ms Scheltema said.

Upcoming photographs will portray mask wearing and another of the local supermarket manager, while she also hopes to illustrate how a variety of industries have adapted, such as schools, in addition to issues such as unemployment.

The $4.7 million Sustaining Creative Workers initiative is a part of the state government's $66.3 million survival package for the state's creative sector.

Prior to the pandemic, creative industries employed 280,000 Victorians and contributed $31 billion to the economy each year. This sector has been devastated by coronavirus related restrictions, with thousands losing work and income.

Nik Round, Kaz Krasovskis, Oliver, Bruno and the rooster that escaped the pot.
Nik has been working from home as a T.V producer - often starting the day with a Zoom meeting - looking after his rare bantam chickens, horse-riding through the forest and enjoying finding the time to sit on his veranda and chat to people walking past.
Kaz, a landscape gardener and member of the Aussie Pops Orchestra, has been gardening and playing his cello in iso. Orchestra members record their individual parts at home which then get spliced together into a full orchestra. They both feel blessed to have this time in iso together and love the way its forced them to slow down. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

Nik Round, Kaz Krasovskis, Oliver, Bruno and the rooster that escaped the pot. Nik has been working from home as a T.V producer - often starting the day with a Zoom meeting - looking after his rare bantam chickens, horse-riding through the forest and enjoying finding the time to sit on his veranda and chat to people walking past. Kaz, a landscape gardener and member of the Aussie Pops Orchestra, has been gardening and playing his cello in iso. Orchestra members record their individual parts at home which then get spliced together into a full orchestra. They both feel blessed to have this time in iso together and love the way its forced them to slow down. Picture: Sandy Scheltema

Acknowledging how difficult it is for photojournalists to complete this type of work when they are not employed by a newspaper or other publication, Ms Scheltema said she felt "very lucky" to have been awarded the grant.

"This kind of work is really close to my heart and the grant has allowed me to keep me working and doing what I love."

The project will conclude in September. The photographs will be stored in the Trentham Historical Society, while the shire's libraries will also be given copies.

Once the pandemic ends, Ms Scheltema plans on hosting a photographic exhibition to celebrate a return to normality.

If you are interested in being a part of the project, contact Sandy Scheltema on 0408722997 to book a portrait.

Photos from the Driveway Project series can be viewed here: https://www.sandyscheltema.com/drivewayproject

This story Photographer captures life during coronavirus pandemic first appeared on The Courier.