The country can just about see a route back to normality, but huge question marks remain over the long-term effects of lockdown for a generation of children. Photographer Rankin, alongside model Daisy Lowe, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake, Rinse FM’s Emerald Rose Lewis, TV presenter Anna Richardson, and UK advertising luminary Trevor Robinson OBE, are raising awareness through a new exhibition entitled How Are You Feeling?
Children aged between 10-18 were asked to choose a word, phrase or short
story that defined how they were feeling and bring it to life with a photograph, with the celebrity backers picking the best, which will be displayed in a UK wide billboard campaign.
From a total of 20,000 entries, the judges narrowed the field to their 10 favourites, which can also be seen in a digital exhibition of the work.
We caught up with Rankin to ask what the exhibition meant to him.
What surprised you when you saw the entries?
I was impressed by how these kids channeled their emotions through photography. They were so vulnerable and honest in their work. Their ability to make beautiful art out of this ugly moment reinforces how powerful art can be.
What was the most striking image for you, and what did it represent?
I was blown away by Caitlyn Sim’s Fear, which was the portrait I selected for the exhibit. I was amazed by how the portrait accurately shows what it feels like to be engulfed with fear and anxiety in these harrowing times. We all feel a bit of fear right now, and I think Caitlyn captured it beautifully.
How do you think children might be affected in the long-term by the pandemic and what can we do to help?
This is a really difficult time for kids right now. Surveys have shown that youth mental health is in crisis and I really feel for kids growing up during this pandemic, isolated from friends, missing important milestones, not having the activities they use as relief available.
We really need to encourage kids to express their emotions without judgement. Art has been so transformative in my life I would encourage kids to get involved in any way that speaks to them.
How have you coped personally throughout the pandemic?
Shooting for myself has given me great pleasure during lockdown. I set up a mini room in my house and I started shooting flowers, specifically ones that had wilted and lost their color. Amid navigating pandemic life and Zoom fatigue, I would take a moment for myself and take these photographs. It was really cathartic to shoot for no one’s satisfaction but my own.
Are you worried about the creative arts?
This exhibition reminded me how much of an impact art can have on young people. Art is a powerful medium that breeds creativity, self-expression, and confidence. We must put an emphasis and funding into the creative arts for today’s youth. When I look at the work Steve Wallington and Scott Shillum are doing at The Photography Movement it gives me hope that people are dedicated to doing this work and that more people will partake.
• You can see the picks made by Rankin and his fellow judges on the online exhibition here.