A Series of Intimate Self-Portraits Taken During Isolation

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Seesaw Bex Day Covid-19 pandemic
Seesaw, from the series Seesaw, 2020Photography by Bex Day

Bex Day has started a uniquely intimate new series since lockdown began in the UK. Here, the photographer tells us more about Seesaw, and how it has helped her to cope with isolation

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“I am used to working with big teams of people on shoots, but because this is no longer possible during lockdown I decided that it was time to turn the lens on myself,” says photographer Bex Day of the genesis of her latest series Seesaw. Day’s series of self-portraits is an intimate, personal response to the Covid-19 pandemic after her usual work was halted. The London-based photographer – whose previous work includes Hen, portraits of Britain’s over-40 trans community – was moved to “highlight the emotional ups and downs” that come with isolation and being in lockdown. “‘Seesaw’ felt like the perfect name for it as I know that I and many others are feeling quite unsteady about the whole situation,” she explains.

Self-portraiture has not been something Day typically explores in her work, which ranges from fashion to documentary photography. Isolation can invite introspection, however, and Day has had to overcome her own anxieties through making Seesaw. “I’ve been interested in doing a series specific to OCD for a while, as I was diagnosed with it two years ago, but I was thinking about how to find a way to convey the specifics of this theme as a photographic work,” she says. “As I noticed my OCD flaring up during lockdown, I thought this would be the perfect time to work on this more self-reflective series.”

“From looking at my photos on Instagram, it probably looks like I have no problem with being nude or taking photos of myself, which is true now, but I used to struggle with body dysmorphia – which often comes hand in hand with OCD,” she continues. The photographs in the series deal with the new reality that we all face: how the pandemic and ensuing isolation orders have affected mental health, stockpiling, and the impacts on our relationships – both with ourselves and others. 

For Day, it was important for Seesaw to address certain issues with a lightness. “I am quite a playful and mischievous person and always look for the positives in everything I do,” she explains. “I wanted to approach some of the themes with a lightness because although this has been such a surreal and difficult time for many, particularly those who have lost their loved ones or their jobs, it has also been positive for people to work at a slower pace.” There’s humour, therefore, in photographs like Zilch, a take on the impact of stockpiling, which sees Day stare through the cardboard inner tube of loo roll; while others, like Paper Bag, offer an insight into how the photographer has felt restricted by the pandemic.

Day has found the series to be both a coping mechanism for compulsive thoughts and a creative release. “I’ve found solace in the whole process, it has been particularly beneficial in processing my feelings on the pandemic,” she says. “I enjoy the performance aspect of photographing myself, how I can look like a completely different person in each image. I have an overactive mind so it’s important for me to stay busy and keep focused, and this project has definitely kept me grounded. I feel like this period has a lot of people feeling inspired, and I’ve noticed a surge of amazing work from so many artists, like Kate Tempest’s performance of Hold Your Own on Dazed which was so powerful and relatable.” Day hopes to exhibit the series once we return to normality but until then, as lockdowns continue, so does Seesaw.

Follow Bex Day on Instagram, where she’ll be posting more from Seesaw as she continues the series.