Snapping into a New Reality

Photo by Nigel McDowell

By Caoimhe Clements

Hearing the vibrate and seeing my phone screen light up, an email appeared; my university lectures were going online. A million thoughts and emotions were running through not just my head, but the heads of hundreds of students like me. Challenges were being created and we had to overcome them.

I’m Caoimhe Clements, a 22-year-old Photographer from Co. Down. I’m studying Photography with Video at Ulster University Belfast. In September I will be embarking on my Final Year as an Undergraduate. The last few months have been interesting. I’ve had to find new ways to adapt. But I’m  grateful that I get to do what I love, even during a pandemic. 

I want to share with YOU how I turned this negative experience into a positive growth!

  1. Archive Photography

Being a photographer always thrills me. I love documenting the world and the issues in it; educating people through a camera. Photography is powerful.  It was not so easy back in March – when it was announced that we were going into lock down. It made me question how I was going to continue my Projects for University and Personal Projects. The answer was Archive Photography. 

And no, not the type of archives that you are thinking off – my own Personal Archive Photographs. This changed the way I saw Photography. It was about digging up my experiences, reliving memories and giving my work that depth that it deserves. 

A current project of mine is called ‘A Global Crisis’, the journey of how Climate Change will be a health issue in the future. From plastic pollution entering into our food chains to extreme weather threatens our cities and wellbeing of people. I am using my archive images from my travels around the world to tell these stories and issues. 

This approach has also made me re-think my experiences. I have older images from Venice that actually showcase rising sea levels – water rushing into buildings. I would never have thought to include this if I didn’t rethink the way I approach this project. 

While I am a discovering new strengths and new ways to continue my photography practice here are things YOU can do with ‘Archive Photography’:

  • Making Scrapbooks

To ease feelings of anxiety that may come with these bizarre times, I recommend creating scrapbooks of your memories, they can be filled with anything from travels to better days with your friends and family. This will give you an opportunity to go through old images, maybe find photos you didn’t realise you had, which can help us to keep in mind that better days are  yet to come in the future. 

  • Then vs Now Shots 

Believe it or not, we are living through history. Fifty years  down the line people will be learning about what we are experiencing right now! The world has transformed with signs that read ‘Stay 2 metres apart’ or ‘Wash your hands’.  Why not photograph places and environments now that you have in the past, to show the change in the world? 

Why do this? It could be the archives of the future! These images could potentially show people in the future how our lives changed because of this pandemic. 

  • Printing Photos

I always think everyone should print their photos – believe me when I say printed photos will always look better than just looking at  photos on a screen. Celebrate your photography skills, frame your photos and display them as wall art. 

At the end of the day – be proud of your photos, they hold memories and memories deserve to be printed whether it is in a book or on your walls. 

  • Online Courses

As an artist, I am never done learning. Even when I graduate next summer with my photography degree – there will still be new things to learn. Isn’t that the beauty of life?

So, I challenge you to think of one thing you are curious about, or something you always wanted to learn.  I challenge you not to say things like  ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’m too old for that’ – you are never too busy or too old to unlock your true potential. Believe in yourself. 

  • The Open University

The Open University is a brilliant platform that offers over 700 free courses in 8 different subject areas. I am currently doing one of the free courses about Renewable Energy – this has linked in with my research for my project ‘A Global Crisis’.  This platform has helped me add depth to my research, making my time in lock down more beneficial and that will help my future self. 

  • Reimagine Remake Replay

Reimagine Remake Replay is a programme based in NI which has the purpose of connecting young people with museums and heritage through writing, technology and social media. 

I first met this lovely team at Belfast Design Week in 2019. During lock down I completed their creative writing course and it gave me the confidence in my writing to start my own blog which will be launching later in the summer. Their courses are completely free and at the end you get a digital badge as evidence that you completed the course. This badge you can put on your C.V or on your Linkedln. If you are an artist or interested in art, please go check out their free courses. It might just help you to develop a new skill or improve one you already have! 

This pandemic experience can be really hard at times, but it is possible to take that negative energy and make it into something positive. Set yourself a challenge and learn something new, feed your curiosity and expand your knowledge. It can be as little as reading more or doing an online course. Use this time wisely and I hope you find your true potential!

Check out more of Caoimhe’s work on Instagram .


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