Social distancing, shocking news cycles, and newfound freedoms: it’s safe to say that 2021 has been a bit of a rollercoaster. While it’s been shaped by the global challenges which ruled 2020, and an ever-changing ‘new normal’, it’s also been a period of new beginnings; of reconnection and renewal. But how do photographers reflect on the past 12 months? As the year draws to a close, we invited ten image-makers who are part of the AnOther community to share a photograph that best represents this unique time. For some, like Lucie Rox, who published her second zine this spring, it’s been a year that has brought creative “self-confidence”; while for others, like Kuba Ryniewicz and Paul Phung, this time has been about reconnecting with community, cherishing friendships, and reminding us “that it’s OK to slow down”.
Here, in their own words, the photographers share the story behind their chosen images.
Annie Lai (lead image)
“This image was taken in Margate at the end of August. It was a chilly overcast morning until we arrived at the coast, when it cleared up and the sky turned so blue it was almost turquoise. I love the way they are here. Scattered under the sun, in peace among their peers.
“‘New normal’ is the theme of 2021. We all had to adapt with the ever-changing world. I’ve come to appreciate more of the little joys and harmony in life. I’m grateful for the healing power of nature. I’m looking forward to many many more moments like this to come.”
“I chose an image from WATER••COLOUR, a zine I made in collaboration with make-up artist Crystabel Riley and self-published in April of this year. Making this zine has been a very important landmark of my year, as it crystalised the evolution of my creativity, mindset and self-confidence to do things with little compromise following the previous months of lockdown and pandemic. It is the first step of me going into this year with an approach truer to myself, my heritage and my visual roots, planting the seeds of what will continue to flourish throughout the year.”
“2021 was for me the year where I could reconnect to the neighbourhood and my surroundings. I spent a lot of time in the garden and on the fields just outside my home in Newcastle. This year was also special as I managed to publish my first monograph which includes all these moments.”
“A lot of my year has been spent in Scotland with my girlfriend and our dog. I feel very lucky to get to be there with them. This photo encapsulates why.”
“I spent most of this year as somebody else, this is ‘Jackie’ from Hotel Adams.”
“This photograph is from a recent personal project where I was reunited with my long-time collaborator Connor Scott after a two-year pandemic separation. This year has taught me to really cherish your friendships and that it’s OK to slow down and take moments for yourself.”
“Be sensitive, but surreal.”
“I think the overriding feeling of the year was lack of clarity, of knowing every situation would probably turn into something unanticipated and strange. Here’s a hazed over swamp outside Mystic Island, New Jersey, which sums up this feeling pretty good for me.”
“This was a year of complete stillness. Not belonging to any time or space.”
“I made this picture at the start of this year and I keep returning to it. It speaks about fear and determination, I don’t know if she’s running from or towards something and that is both terrifying and liberating.”