British-Bermudan photographer Nicola Muirhead took a Masters in Documentary Photography and Photo-Journalism at the London College of Communications. She describes herself as “a documentary photographer and visual storyteller”. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, National Geographic and many other publications.
At the beginning of March during extensive lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus, she started looking for a way to document the pandemic. That’s when she discovered several unused packs of Polaroid film.
“I started investigating ways in which I could metaphorically ‘reveal’ this unseen virus in my pictures,” Nicola says, “to expose its lurking presence in the skin and air and manifest it in my pictures – to identify it – marking this time in place in our history.”
She started to treat her photographs with the substances used to ward off the virus, such as hand sanitiser, soap and bleach. The results were dramatic or in her own words, “dreamlike and apocalyptic.”
Thus was born a project she titled Unseen. She took photographs of her home, of ordinary objects, of street scenes and treated them with chemicals.
Nicola says, “We live with an anxiety around the coronavirus, even though we cannot perceive it, and I really wanted to try and convey that anxiety and that presence by taking the Polaroids and physically altering them with the disinfectants we use to prevent the virus from spreading.”
She adds, “The more I sort of played around with different kinds of disinfectant the more dramatic the effects started to look.”
The project ran to some 40 treated photographs which have appeared, among others in Time Magazine, The Atlantic and the Smithsonian Magazine.
Recently the project has been showcased by the BBC.
At Happy Ali we do not believe in giving space to the usual tales of woe that come from the spread of the pandemic but we do think that photographs such as these, attempting to depict the virus in such a novel and dramatic way are worthy to share with our readers.