Mursell’s photography project Corona with Gratitude is bringing communities together
Becky Mursell is a London-based portrait and documentary photographer whose work focuses on people, places, and communities. Becky sees photography as a chance to immerse yourself in other people’s worlds and she uses her camera to explore these environments and tell new stories.
As communities up and down the country face up to one of the most challenging periods in recent history, Becky has responded by developing the project Corona with Gratitude, using photography as a tool to cultivate creativity in communities.
Recognising how the crisis was affecting her own mental health, Becky decided to devise a project which not only brought awareness to the importance of mental wellbeing but also provided a practical activity where those involved could be reminded about the small and important things that are often overlooked in our daily lives.
With over 20 participants taking part, each person was asked to take a photo every day of a moment or thing that they were grateful for. Becky then collated these photos to make a personal collage for each person which would be paired with a portrait of them taken by herself.
“Whenever I can before a photo shoot I love to involve the person I am photographing in the process. However, with this project I was excited to take this form of collaboration to a whole new level.” – Becky Mursell
Through the project, Becky ensured that participants had complete liberty to document what they wanted and how they wanted. However, she also set small photo ‘challenges’ along the way, such as asking participants to consider the frame or lighting in the photo.
Due to the current social distancing guidelines, in order to take the portraits, Becky had to adapt away from the physical photoshoots she’s used to. With a bit of creativity and using the power of technology, she decided to come up with the innovative process of virtual photoshoots on Zoom.
Achieved with lots of patience, Becky directed each participant as if they were right in front of her. Using the natural light from windows, Becky also noted the different ways the participants propped up their computers – with books, on bannisters, or balanced on chairs.
Becky gave insight to the project’s process: “Whenever I can before a photo shoot I love to involve the person I am photographing in the process. However, with this project I was excited to take this form of collaboration to a whole new level. I decided to pair each Zoom portrait with a gratitude collage because I believe it gives a different and more personal insight into each person and their experience. It was also really important to me that each person had the ability to take ownership in sharing their own experience and that this should be of equal, if not more importance, than my own contribution.”
“Corona with Gratitude has proved how art is more important than ever right now. It’s giving you a chance to express your feelings in a way words may not be able to.”
Becky also created a virtual safe space on WhatsApp for participants to share their moments. Forming a small community, the space stimulated positive conversations between people who may not have otherwise spoken before.
A participant of Corona with Gratitude spoke about how the project has helped them through this unprecedented crisis: “Corona with Gratitude has proved how art is more important than ever right now. It’s giving you a chance to express your feelings in a way words may not be able to.”
With what started off as a two-week project, Becky is now taking it overseas. Building on the success of Corona with Gratitude, she felt it was important to reflect the global scale of the pandemic and now has participants from Tanzania, Australia, and Costa Rica.