COVID stories

Viv Cumming

Written in November 2020

Viv Cumming

Covid-19 completely changed my work; I’ve gone from exploring the world to exploring Perthshire, and I’ve found wonders in equal measure.

In March I was supposed to be going on an expedition to the Mekong River in southeast Asia with the University of Hull and National Geographic. We were going there to investigate microplastic pollution and to document and communicate the plastic problem in one of the dirtiest rivers in the world. At the last minute the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19 and so was the rest of my work for the summer and I found myself at home with no expeditions on the horizon. I am a climate scientist turned documentarian; using photo, film and words to document exploration, adventure and scientific expeditions. For the last 5 years I have been from the Arctic, to Antarctica, to the Himalayas; documenting the environmental problems facing our planet.

The pandemic has forced me to completely re-think the way I work. I was already well aware that flying around the world to document environmental problems wasn’t sustainable in itself and I was also wanting to settle down in one place. Covid-19 just forced this on me much faster than I had expected. I’m quite used to working from home when I am at home, but I’m also used to regular trips away where I meet new people, work in teams and collaborate. There is no replacement for human connection, and I think this pandemic has particularly highlighted the need for community and connection to everyone. The loneliness brought on by the pandemic and not being able to travel and do my usual work have been particularly challenging for me, but I realised that I could find just as much wonder around my new home in Perthshire as I could around the world.

I started a photography project called #36Dawns to capture the landscape, people and wildlife around Perthshire, particularly focusing on nature and our connection to it. The project is partly a way for me to find community and connection in Perthshire where I grew up but only moved back to after lockdown 1.0 and also for me to fire up my creativity again and find new ways to help the people around me rather than in other parts of the world. I chose to do 36 Dawns as one of the meanings of the number 36 is to inspire creativity in oneself and others and to accomplishing creative goals for helping humankind. My hope with this project is that it will inspire others to get outside to do something that inspires them every day. Others have done 36 dusks, 36 trees as well as 36 dawns. If you do decide to start a similar project – photograph, run, garden, walk, swim, draw, film for 36 days – whatever, wherever and whenever it is please share with the hashtag #36Dawns so that we can all be inspired by each other.

You can follow 36 Dawns on Instagram @drvivcumming

More information about my work and print enquiries can be found here www.viviencumming.com

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