From the outset of our COVID Collection, Sascha Roos has been helping us document the changing cityscape during the lockdown restrictions. The things that people noticed and chose to document through photographs are an interesting element of life during the lockdown. We’re particularly lucky that Sascha accompanied her images with a commentary on the streetscape or mood of the city at the time, and with her own thoughts and motivations for taking particular photos. The linked photo-and-commentary format really provides a context and food for thought. All words and pictures in this Gallery are by Sascha Roos.
Sascha is a dyslexia specialist and author living in Cork city. Originally from Cambridge, she has lived in Cork for more than 22 years. Her book
At Home with Dyslexia: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting your Child was published in 2018. We asked Sascha to contribute to the Chronicles project after she posted pictures and commentary about the first few of her lockdown city walks on Facebook. Reflecting on the process of contributing to ‘Chronicles of COVID-19’, Sascha said:
‘I really enjoyed having purpose on my city walks. My strolls had meaning, and I felt I was contributing to an archive that will capture moments during an extraordinary time.
I now see myself as an urban photographer!’
The Nun This was the first photo I took in these strange times. It was taken on the 19th of March. At the time everything seemed a bit of a novelty. A face mask was very much an exception whereas now it feels like the rule. I was waiting to take money out of my bank on Patrick Street when I saw her. She was walking briskly with purpose. I like the shadow she cast too.
The Crowded Beach I have a few pictures before the date of the nun. This is March 15th in Fountainstown. I had never seen it so packed. A sunny Sunday before Paddy’s Day and everyone seemed to have the idea it would be good to visit the beach. I knew I needed to see the sea and the horizon – that it was good for our health. But the amount of people around made me nervous. No one seems to really ‘get’ this social distancing thing yet.
Paddy’s Day I had an idea to walk around town on Paddy’s Day and take photos of the closed pub doors. How peculiar, how defiant, but how great as a society that the pubs do the right thing and close their doors. It was like the old Good Friday before the laws changed, but then again different, a very different vibe. I felt rather proud. And I loved appreciating the bright colours and the detail of the doors.
Friday night walk. This was Friday 20th of March. I went for a walk around town with a friend, walking 2 metres apart as much as possible. It was fascinating because once the people and traffic have gone you begin to hear sounds that have always been there but never noticed. I’m particularly referring to the Billboard sign above a newsagents corner on Patrick Street (I didn’t take a photo, unfortunately). It changes its image with these rolling wooden slats and they actually make quite a sound. John also pointed out these little glittery cylinders decorating a chemist frontage. They also make a delicate sound in the breeze. I had never noticed them before and I have walked on Winthrop Street so many times! Town felt a little eerie. The few people wandering around looked a little lost. So it was good to capture a brighter picture with us smiling. John’s stance is comical from his safe distance but also hopeful with his arms outstretched. This photo particularly got a response on Facebook. Everyone wants some hope and some humour. The empty main streets – Grand Parade and Oliver Plunkett street were almost unbelievable. And this was the first time I saw the Back Soon Love Cork signs. There were loads on Oliver Plunkett St.
Sunday 22 nd March This was a rather stressful experience, when I was hoping to find release and an escape with a Sunday walk to the marina. It turned out to be a more unpleasant experience than the beach trip! It was hard to avoid all the families and joggers and cyclists. My photos don’t convey how busy it was. I wanted to enjoy the daffodils and the water, however, on the opposite side of the road, there was a continuous stream of cars going into the drive-in test centre which had been quickly established at the stadium. A jolly man greeted drivers with his mask on, and I could hear him asking when was their appointment and to return at three. I had a feeling there were health workers in their cars waiting to be tested. It all felt a little surreal. On one side there were families enjoying the spring sunshine, and on the other was something very serious and frightening developing.
Second Friday night walk Here is our second Friday night walk, and the last for now. I’m not a professional photographer in any way and I am just taking images on my phone, nothing special, not even a recent model. So I am particularly pleased with some of the results in this collection. Pure fluke. I have no idea why the bridge image worked so well and captured the moon above. It makes Cork look rather exotic. The image of my friend sitting on the seating on the new pedestrian bridge is also pleasing as I wanted to capture the shadows and geometric shapes as well as the distance between us now. I was also drawn to moments of colour on our walk – the green light on the fountain and the blue of The Fishwife takeaway. And then the sheer emptiness on MacCurtain Street and the Everyman on a Friday night. Also, the bottom of the lane now famous with the Young Offenders dance. Town was feeling a little edgier. I was asked for a euro by a young man. But who has change on them now? Everything is contactless.
7 th of April We can see that things are picking up now. We have the 2kms restriction on our movements and shops are adapting to growing developments. At first, it was quite a shock to see the protective screen in Boots like in a sci-fi movie. Also a limited entrance and exit at the side door, and you are invited to use a hand sanitizer as you enter and exit. The English Market is still open as a food supplier but so very quiet. I bumped into a good friend who runs a business there. I could see her worry and sadness in her eyes. They are hoping home deliveries will help business. As a city dweller, I’m fortunate the 2kms radius from my house gives me quite a bit of variety. There is a website where you can check what is within your limit. So I enjoyed a trip to St Finbarrs and was relieved to find its grounds were still open and I could walk round the labyrinth. Walking a labyrinth is a form of meditation and good for our well being. It has a calming effect.
April 10th I have a few separate things to say about some of these images. The chemist’s sign is from the one on the corner of MacCurtain Street. I’m quite fascinated by the signs around the place. It feels slightly unreal, like a film. The skatepark was a depressing sight as just a few days before I saw children playing on it. Although I did think it was a bit risky and wondered if they were from the same household. So obviously the council felt they had to take action and fence it off. It is quite a brutal sight and reminds you of the seriousness. What I love about the poster in the bus stop is the window in the background with the flowers (I think artificial) on display. The colours match the poster and you just draw some comfort and hope from the sight of them in contrast to the scary warnings on the poster. I tried to capture the sound of the billboard changing (I talked about that before as a sound never noticed when street sounds were normal). And to capture the wooden slats changing in a photo. I love the ‘count your chickens’ display in Flying Tiger. Something positive, humorous, hopeful, and yes we need to count our chickens as in count our blessings in this extraordinary and devastating situation. The ‘we are all in this together’ message on the shop fronts of Brown Thomas and also the Kilkenny shop just make me angry. Only the privileged tell us we are all in this together. The Tory politicians, the comfortable middle classes, the shops that attract better-off customers. But we are not all in this together, and this pandemic is certainly proving that. The poorer in society are more at risk, those in overcrowded living spaces, and working in the lower-paid jobs – the care workers, the bus drivers, the cleaners, the bin men – they are putting themselves at risk every day, not the people with a big house and garden, a second home they are escaping to in the night, the people who shop at Brown Thomas. No we are not all in this together.
Easter weekend I found this very interesting – men queuing outside the butchers in St Luke’s, I assume for their Easter lamb. All social distancing, relaxed in the sun. It’s incongruous but will this be the new norm?
The beauty indoors Another from today. I’m really pleased with this. It was a bit of beauty between the sunlight and the blinds and the shadow at my window, and i just had to capture it. No special effects and just an old camera phone. I feel the heart has more significance than usual, because of what we are going through now. The distance between us brings us closer together. It also links with the love heart in the ‘Back Soon, Love Cork’ signs we are seeing around the city.
Window shopping I think, like for a lot of people, I’m getting fed up with the lockdown and the whole thing isn’t so fascinating anymore! So this is probably a good time to send my window shopping series! There comes a point where one just wants to browse the shops, feel textures, flick through hangers. But all i can do is window shop! And look longingly, even if I don’t like what is in the window. The problem now is that these window displays are not changing. Where is the next season? These window displays reflect how life is on hold, dormant even. However, I do know that I am fortunate to even see these sad displays, as they are within my 2kms. And my students have been most appreciative when I have sent the images on to them to cheer them up in their isolation.
Waterstones Book curling Oh, this really struck me. Walking past Waterstones and seeing what’s happening to its display. It looks so terribly sad. The books are beginning to curl and slip over. They look deflated. Everything has been halted in time. And I think about my book inside there along with all the others – stuck!
Discarded Glove I think this says it all really. The new litter, the new plastic issue for our environment. I fear we are going to see a lot more discarded gloves and face masks. On the other hand I also found this quite an artistic image, appealing, and encapsulates the current life we are living.
Office Shoes I feel that I’m going to miss aspects of the lockdown. Already there are noticeably more people and cars on the streets, and from next week when people’s limit will extend from 2kms to 5kms – town will be busier and I will have lost it to myself. As a city dweller it has been fascinating and rather cool having the city just for us few who live here, and it feels like we will be losing that peace and space with more people coming in. It’s so special to bump into a stylish friend and have a chat. Here is Colin in his fab shoes.
Queues 2 nd May I thought that I needed to capture the Saturday queues before things change. Often they are longer than shown, winding down Paul Street, Patrick Street and so on.
Nighttime walk, 7th May I love the colours reflected in this one I’m particularly pleased with how the City Hall image came out. I am only using my camera on my phone, no effects, just hoping to capture a moment I see, the colours, the atmosphere. Here an empty bus passes. Everywhere is still. Empty bus in an empty city. The colours are beautiful.
Nothing to look forward to I noticed that all the upcoming events at the Opera House have been removed from their usual display at the glass frames. Previously there were a few up, giving one hope, but now all are gone. There is absolutely nothing to look forward to. I found that striking and rather depressing. I would always see what I fancy going to and maybe have some tickets for performances, but now nothing.
Fota gardens 11th June Now we can go anywhere within our county. How exciting and liberating, especially when you live in the largest county! I felt safe on a very quiet train with distanced seating – seems to be the perfect way to do public transport, no one can sit anywhere near you! I appreciate everything as my senses feel more tuned in and aware now – the sounds, the breeze, the smells, the textures.
Fountainstown 12th June Feel we’ve gone full circle. Now returning to Fountainstown. This time it isn’t so crowded as people can go further afield. We are also more used to this situation. We have more of an idea of what we are dealing with. We still need to see the sea and the horizon for our well being.
Art I’ve been waiting all lockdown for the galleries to open! This situation really lets you know what is important to you. I need to see art and visit galleries. The virtual tours just don’t fulfil that need. My visit to the Crawford Gallery was wonderful and I savoured the experience.
Airport 7th July I was struck by the lack of activity outside the airport – no taxis, no drop offs, no people 29th July I was the only person in the whole airport at that time checking in for a flight. It was surreal, like being in the film Omega Man. My flight had 37 passengers and was one of just four flights that day.
Family Zoom This is how we connect across the water now. We are all using the word zoom like never before. We compare notes on how our countries are doing. I try to impart to them the significance of an earlier lockdown and decisive restrictions! At least it usurps the Brexit conversation.