Teacher and Student: Nathan Cox on Education during Lockdown

We asked Nathan Cox to go through what it has been like for him juggling being a teacher and an Masters student;

On the eve of what looks like another full lockdown I’ve been asked to write about my experiences of the first lockdown, although I know my situation wasn’t completely unique it wasn’t the norm. I came at lockdown education from two angles, first being a tutor teaching a module to Level 4 degree students and the second being an MA student completing my modules and final major project.

My lockdown started in stages,  I knew that it was coming but it seemed like an age before it was confirmed and it culminated, like for most people on March the 23rd when Uni, college and schools went into full lockdown.

Thinking back now is a strange contemplation; it is a cliché but it does seem like such a long time ago, the complete unknown and May that became such a long year.

I juggled the teaching of the module, which was mercifully coming to an end of specific taught practices, but still had the handing in and assessment stages to complete. Part of that was final printed matter and a certain physicality that could not be enabled through a screen, but all of this would be considered and the students did very well. It was great to see them tackle this adversity and overcome it. Great life lessons for all concerned and the situation presented some new opportunities that I intend to carry forward into teaching further modules and independent practices in future.

My MA modules followed a similar learning path; the use of Microsoft Teams from the other angle was an invaluable experience and one the MA has taught me throughout; seeing teaching from a student angle in real time rather than from my last educational experience, 25 years ago. This situation has taught me to look for things to be grateful for and the things I’m most grateful for in this scenario are that I’m so glad I started my “Socially Engaged” module when I did – before lockdown! This gave me a foundation of work to draw upon so even though it didn’t reach completion, as in I didn’t have chance to do the exhibition with the groups and that I couldn’t start my big “This is Stockport” idea off in ideal circumstances, I still got it to a desired outcome. My other module was the “New Media” which was slightly more affected the imagery produced as the idea and adaptations changed form week to week.

The big thing that loomed large on the horizon was my final project. I had intended it to be a large piece of work exploring themes and ideas surrounding the notion of photographic practices. This was eventually, either by the situation, or just generally shaped into a New Topographical theme based on a trip to get my mum a new microwave. Some of the images can be viewed on my instagram feed (link at the bottom of this post).

The production of the work and the words was a solitary endeavour, with much outside critical evaluation, partly from necessity, by design, timely needs and the situation.  I’m sure this approach will affect the final grade but it is what it is.

So thinking about the purpose of this piece, which I think, would be to pass on my experiences and therefore advice:

Keep trying to produce the work, no matter what that is. Make an image out of what you have to hand, set small projects, make time, look through your archives. Sometimes it’s just the act of making time for any aspect of your work that spurs you on to other things. Art is seemingly the one way out of this mess; you can see evidence that it is, with the current government’s persecution of it.  The establishment hates it, so make more of it, have fun with it, take it seriously, share it especially in arenas like the Two Forty Four Network, or keep it to yourself, whatever you can – just keep making it and be kind to yourself in that process. It’s ok if you don’t produce anything today, sometimes the sheer act of trying is enough and if that’s not possible then recharge for when you can.

So with all the above in mind, during this situation I have managed to produce some images that have no real home within a project, apart from the Covid diaries format of imagery that I fear is now so populated as to render it indiscernible and invalid from assessment. So here I present 8 images from the last 8 months.

Thank you for reading.

You can see my work here at www.urgent-temporality.co.uk or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/urgent.temporality or read my ramblings on Twitter at https://twitter.com/UTemporality

Limiting the Frame, the Landscape through the Window

Like many other creatives the national lockdown which began in March affected me greatly; As a photographer that studies the landscape, works on projects hundreds of miles from home and commutes over an hour to study at University, this brought my whole world to a sudden and abrupt end. 

At the time of the lockdown down I was still a Master’s student at the University of Central Lancashire and commuting from my home in Stoke-On-Trent. As by some cruel twist of fate, the Lockdown perfectly coincided with a darkroom based module to perfect physical analogue skills in the darkroom, something covid could not allow to continue. Following a hasty change of course and the practical abandonment of the analogue side of the module, I was forced to look at how to be a landscape documentary photographer while stuck in my own home. What follows is a summary of an article written for part of that module.

Alsager Town Car Park, March 2020

With no possibility to continue my projects in Cumbria, visit the darkroom in Preston or even meet with friends and colleagues to discuss what on earth I was gonna do to complete this module. But there was still work to be made and study assessments to be completed so I began to work out how to work in isolation. We have all had to explore new ways of working which we would have perhaps never explored before. For me at least, this was no easy task, though moving out of one’s comfort zone is a great way to enhance and forward your practice, it is a very different thing to be forced into that way of working with no alternative. This took quite some time and experimentation to realise what I was going to do with what I had before me. Like many other visual artists, I initially took to the streets to document their emptiness, the long queues for toilet roll or people on their doorsteps unilaterally clapping for the NHS. I soon however, felt very detached from this way of working as if I was merely reacting to the situation rather than creating something fresh or useful from this new world being born before my eyes.

After much of this trial and error, I finally settled on the concept of limited scope study, not limited in the way the virus had (by removing what I would normally do to create a body of work) but by imposing restrictions upon myself that reduced my scope of visual exploration down to a manageable scale. This helped not only focus my work on something steadfast and what, at first, I believed to be unchanging during a time when the larger narrative was so confused, dangerous and continuously changing. I opened up to exploring the method of a project itself as the interesting part of the work, not just how aesthetic the visuals of said project turned out to be, and thus Rear Window; A Study of Creative Practice in Isolation was born. Over the next few weeks I would focus all of my energy onto a frame of just one and a half metres wide by one metre tall, looking roughly 30 degrees north and nothing else. This was my view of the world, my window into the epidemic and in many ways, my tormentor as this project went on.

Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock, 1954

Named after, and following the premise of, the unforgettable 1954 Hitchcock classic; Rear Window. This work was born from necessity but gave me a greater understanding of the role of our methodology in the production of our work and holding it in as much regard as a project’s final output. The film for those that don’t know, and if you don’t you need to watch it, I cannot do it justice in these short lines. The film’s story follows a photographer who is suddenly rendered incapacitated due to an accident and finds himself isolated to his apartment which faces directly onto another set of apartments. Over the course of the film he observes and photographs the limited view of people’s lives that he can observe from through their windows. Eventually he witnesses what he believes may well be a murder and thus a classic thriller is born.

Though the Hitchcock classic had given me my frame to work with, it was unable to give me a subject matter to visualise. Unlike Jeff, the film’s protagonist, I do not live in central New York and thus do not have the same, uninterrupted view into people’s lives through their windows. Instead, I was presented with a view of a small portion of my neighbours’ backyard and a little of our own, a considerable amount of greenery in the form of trees and bushes separating the view of the street and a scattering of distant houses forming the rest of the housing estate. The question then became; what is it that creates visual interest in this frame, and why should it be photographed?

Working with inspiration from David Moore’s fantastic series ‘The Commons’ and John Baldessari’s visually fascinating series ‘Throwing Four Balls in the Air to Get a Square’, I began working with the idea of documenting the world as I was living in it via a limited scope but while still being able to tell an interesting, but perhaps not obvious, story of the Coronavirus epidemic as I saw it. This led me to combine ideas from both works into one; a study of aspects of the greater view from my window while simultaneously limiting what was visually included in each set of images and avoiding images of the full landscape.

Rear Window #4 – April 2020

‘Rear Window’ therefore became an amalgamation of ideas and concepts on how to study the worst national emergency the United Kingdom has faced since the Second World War but by doing so in a unique and arguably abstract way. This work, focusing on a view from a bedroom window doesn’t show the empty streets, queues for food or Governmental breakdown. It instead shows parts of our local landscape, often overlooked in the day to day rush of modern life, until our local landscape became the centre point of our current lives. Denied the distractions of the modern life that we were accustomed to, we looked at the landscape outside our windows with a mixture of longing and intrigued at how we had never truly seen it before. This work takes the idea of our local landscape (the view from our homes) that we see every day and, for perhaps the first time, allows our separation from it to open our eyes to the smallest details that makes up our world.

Much like Jeff in Hitchcock’s Rear Window I always had my camera on standby to take photos of whatever struck my interest through my limited frame. As I did so, I began to think more deeply about what I found interesting, why and how that told a story of the new world we found ourselves in. On one occasion I watched, a neighbour across the street take a phone call staring out of the window, a clear reflection of how physically separated we were from one another even with the modern means of communication we possess, he and whoever he was speaking to were separated by an invisible barrier that neither could cross, in a different time they may have been sitting in his front room together.

The Sky, Looking 65 degrees North East at an elevation of 80m above sea level and shot between 13:37 & 14:37 on 27th April 2020.

Beyond just observing the human inhabitants of my micro-landscape, I also turned my lens to its other aspects, mainly the sky and the ground. Over a period of four hours, broken by hourly interjections, I photographed a specific area of the sky and the clouds moving through it. The movement of the clouds and their complexity is often lost to our general observations during daily life, many of us do not have the time to sit and watch the atmospheric ballet play out. During the night I created observations of the unnatural lights that transformed the landscape into something totally different to that during the day. Following observations of shapes and colours at night I began to look at similar themes during the day, noting how green and colourful the foliage had become as the mark of winter had all but vanished. One observation led to another until I had stitched together a portrait of the view from my window, from the comings and goings of my neighbours to the movement of clouds.

Dark Objects #3, April 2020

Together this range of seemingly unrelated images with little to no visual or contextual connection to one another, bar the frame of which they exist within, come together to tell a story of life in isolation. This is not by far my best work, nor my most interesting to date but it documents one of the most difficult times we have faced in generations. It explores forced change, creative development and growth in a way personal to myself but with themes that all creatives who experienced working during the lockdown encountered. This experience has changed the way I work as a creative, inspired me to continue to grow creatively and has influenced all my work that has come since. Though the Corona Crisis and the national lockdown was so damaging to the creative community it oddly inspired me, pushed me to consider creative avenues I have never thought to journey down before and I have become a better artist as a result. I hope that many creatives will have had similar experiences, or at least they will be able to look back on their work over lockdown as a way to forward their creative thinking and challenge what we all know as contemporary photographic theory.

This is only a short summary of a project spanning much of the national lockdown, a full write up, more visual content from myself and my colleagues on the Master’s course at UCLan can be found here: https://viraldays2020.wordpress.com/author/alistairgrimley/


I shot Orrin a bit further into the project when I was more comfortable moving around under the lockdown restrictions as I could cycle to shoot people from a social distance and class it as daily exercise. Orrin is also to thank for developing most of the film for the project in his home darkroom as my usual lab was closed.

Equidistant Exile Schedule

We have a week full of discussion and new creative work in-store from a variety of creative practitioners from Two Forty Four and beyond… Here is what you can expect! (More articles are being added to our line up all the time so be sure to keep an eye on the blog and our instagram feed for the unexpected!)

Blog Post Schedule

Instagram posting will follow the same time frame

Monday 19th13:00 – Calum Heywood’s introduction to his Isolated Portrait series.
14:00 – A Schedule of the Weeks events.
Tuesday 20th13:00 – Another Isolated Portrait from Calum’s series.
14:00 – Limiting the Frame, the Landscape through the Window by Alistair Grimley.
Wednesday 21st11:00 – Nathan Cox on being both a student and teacher during the national lockdown.
13:00 – Another Isolated Portrait from Calum’s series.
18:00 – Educational lockdown; Photography teaching during a pandemic by Emma Spencer.
Thursday 22nd11:00 – Home is where the Heart is by Daniel Oyegade.
13:00 – Another Isolated Portrait from Calum’s series.
14:00 – Lisa Oldroyd discusses the challenges of being a mother and PhD student.
– Nicola Dixon on being a parent, home teacher and photography student in lockdown.
Friday 23rd11:00 – Orrin Pierre: The Darkroom in Isolation.
13:00 – Another Isolated Portrait from Calum’s series.
14:00 – Naomi Lee Voss on Photo Walks as a method of creative inspiration.
15:00 – Kenny Brown on working as a freelance photojournalist during Lockdown.
Saturday 24th13:00 – Calum’s final Isolated Portrait
15:00 – Live Artist Talk with Calum Heywood, hosted by Alistair Grimley and Lisa Oldroyd.
15:45 – Live Q&A with Calum, Alistair, Lisa and some other contributors from the week.
Last updated: 20/10/2020 13:17

Each day this week Calum Heywood will be presenting a new image from his brand new lockdown inspiredIsolated Portraits series and culminating in a live-streamed artist talk and Q&A with other participants on Saturday. This will be hosted by Twitch.TV and can be watched live on TwoFortyFour.org/Live or on Twitch.tv/TwoFortyFourNetwork (please note that to interact with the stream via a live text chat you will need to watch directly through Twitch.TV and create a free account with them).

We have a variety of practitioners and creative thinkers posting through the week to the schedule above but given the difficult and ever-changing situation that times like these present, we may have to change or cancelled posts altogther. Keep following the blog and our instagram page for the latest updates.

We are hoping to add more posts to our line up over the week, so be sure to subscribe to our blog to get these posts direct to your inbox and follow us on Instagram for more amazing photography from our incredible members.

Enjoy Equidistant Exile, keep discussing, keep photographing and stay safe.
– The Two Forty Four Team

Socially Distanced Portraiture, an Introduction

To begin, this project started as a study of landscape development and local gentrification through exploration of how the UK was moving forward with power and energy, with the rise of green energy and subsequent decrease and removal of traditional power stations. The aim was to explore the effects this was having on a local level by visiting and documenting the towns and local areas which had been affected and how the landscape changed as a result of the now absent landmarks which had become a part of the community. I photographed the demolition of Ironbridge Power Station in Telford to document this change in landscape, with the hope of revisiting this site and others to re-photograph them and document the change in landscape over time. I was forced to abandon this project due to the national lockdown last spring as I could no longer travel further than my immediate home. Although I will still be working on this theme once everything returns to normal, the project then morphed into a documentation of the 2020 UK lockdown through capturing portraits of people living in the North West of England.

The basis of the project was to create a connection between the subject and the viewer through a socially distanced environmental portrait. Each photograph in this series shows the subjects in their home environment, whether quite literally outside the front door or within an environment the subject would call home such as a garden. I wanted each photograph to show the viewer something about the subject in a subtle way so that the information was there for the viewer to unpack, either who the person is or where they are. I also wanted to explore the idea that everyone had lived through the same event during the 2020 lockdown but in vastly different ways through individual experiences and different geographical areas. I wanted each shot to feel unique and to show the subjects space with a personal feel to each image as if using the photograph as a window into peoples’ personal spaces or the home environment during a time of forced isolation.

This project has changed and adapted with the everchanging rules of Britain’s lockdown, meaning that each stage had allowed me to explore the project in different ways as the restrictions changed. I started incorporating photo walks into the project to work with other creatives and shoot in different locations and situations, which by virtue expanded the projects visual material and cultural coverage.

A major theme of this work that I want to explore in the next six days worth of posts here on Two Forty Four’s blog is the connections between the people I have met and interacted with since the start of the lockdown in March 2020. Each day I will be posting a new portrait and a bit about the person, my connection to them and why I decided to photograph them.

To start off this week I’m going to share where this work started with some initial portraits of my family. Like many, I started lockdown stuck at home and decided to use the time to document my time during isolation. I also had a large amount of Kodak film, which I bulk bought in case the Kodak factories shut down production over the lockdown, so I wanted to test it out. My family try to live a sustainable lifestyle with a lot of work outdoors growing food, looking after animals and self-maintaining our home. So, it was interesting to photograph and become involved in this environment and in a way reconnect with that aspect of home life through photography, adding a personal element of nostalgia to the project. Included are images of my parents and sister, taken during this initial exploration of working in lockdown.

Introducing: Equidistant Exile

A week of original visual content and discussion exploring creativity in lockdown to better prepare for a potential second wave this winter.

19th – 24th October 2020 — TwoFortyFour.org

Two Forty Four is proud to present; Equidistant Exile, a week of visual content and creative discussion to better prepare for a second wave this winter.

As we stand on the edge of another potential national lockdown gripping the UK and with several regions already in partial lockdowns, there is now no better time than now to discuss how visual creativity was affected during the last national lockdown. The last lockdown saw many of us creatively crippled and understanding how our creative community overcame and adapted to the first lockdown will fundamentally help us better prepare and overcome the challenges that a second wave might present.

Starting on Monday 19th October and running throughout the week, several contributors from the Two Forty Four Network and beyond will be sharing and discussing creative practice in lockdown and isolation. Made up mainly of blog posts on TwoFortyFour.org and visual work sharing on instagram, the week will also feature the debut of Calum Heywoods Isolated Portraits project which was shot exclusively over the lockdown period in Lancashire. Each day of the week will feature a new portrait from Calum’s series, as yet unseen by the general public.

Isolated Portrait – Calum Heywood, 2020

The week of content will come to an end with a publicly available live streamed artist talk from PhotoUCLan Alumni and MMU post-graduate student Calum Heywood. The talk will discuss the themes of his Isolated Portraits work as well as how he molded and executed his ideas during lockdown. The talk will last approximately 40 mins (timings yet to be confirmed) and in an interview fashion with Two Forty Four co-directors Lisa Oldroyd and Alistair Grimley. But the week will be far from over, immediately following Calum’s talk there will be a live and interactive Q&A session with some of the week’s contributors where the public and Two Forty Four members can ask questions directly to our contributors.

Once completed the weeks worth of content and discussion will form an archive of creative thinking hosted by Two Forty Four and open to the public. This archive will act as a source of inspiration and reference for any creatives caught up in lockdowns or struggling with inspiration and motivation in these troubling times.

More information on our contributors and schedule will be released over the coming weeks so keep an eye on our social media platforms, especially instagram (@twofortyfournetwork) and blog for the latest announcements about Equidistant Exile.

Stay safe, keep creating and don’t give up!