The chances are you’ve probably seen some of these on your local daily walks already. There’s one on the window of the new-look Rossella restaurant on Highgate Road, for example, and a heart-warming ‘heaven’s door’ double portrait on the library, as well as an overview of the whole project on the Lady Hamilton pub. But it’s well worth stopping, in fact, and having a proper read of what it’s about.
Isolating Together is an outdoor photography exhibition portraying “inspiring stories of community, action and solidarity during Covid-19”, says founder, photographer Karishma Puri.
It’s currently being displayed at 18 locations, across Camden and (mostly) Kentish Town. Other NW5 locations include Aces & Eights, The O2 Forum Billboard, Saint Espresso, Tolli, Flaxon Ptootch and The Fields Beneath.
Marking one year since the first Covid-19 lockdown began in the UK, the entirely crowdfunded show celebrates the many people from different walks of life who came together at a time of unprecedented hardship to look after one another.
Puri was inspired to capture the images after establishing Covid Mutual Aid in Kentish Town. A WhatsApp-based community group, it was set up for neighbours to support one another and overcome isolation. “It was clear people were facing acute challenges. But I was also aware of a growing hope and community spirit. So I set out to capture this energy and resolve with my camera,” she says.
The aim is for Isolating Together – a collab with arts groups Jack Arts and No Ordinary Experience – to transform billboards, community spaces, and local shop windows into an outdoor gallery. Each location was carefully selected from among the most meaningful venues in the area, the centrepiece across a 14 metre wall at Number 19, the home of community action in Camden.
Some of the stories in Isolating Together highlight the vital role that friendly local businesses, from Truffles in Dartmouth Park to Kentish Town Stores (see image below) just off the high street, played in keeping people going. As well as providing delicious food, these venues all act as a hub where people can chat and feel connected to the community.
Other portraits in the exhibition are more personal. Nafisa’s story (at the former Tolli cafe) tells of the suffering in the Somali community at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic; of how she would read comments in the press about ethnic minorities being ignorant about nutrition while neighbours struggled to get by. But despite her own challenges, she decided to do something to help. Nafisa ended up orchestrating a support system within her community which ensured people had a steady supply of free fruit and vegetables.
“Nafisa’s story sums up the spirit I set out to capture in Isolating Together,” says Karishma. “People from diverse backgrounds who might have only shared a postcode in the months before lockdown were now sharing their food and their time with one another.”
You can enjoy NW5’s inspiring community spirit during a self-guided walking tour of the exhibition. There’s even a map to help you, as well as more info on the artworks, all here. Follow @isolating.together