It’s Day Two of the extension to Victoria’s lockdown 6.0. Upon my early rise due to a bedside lick from my new puppy, I return to the now-iconic pages of Together Apart – Life in Lockdown, a collection of lockdown stories from Melbourne’s extended lockdown – the seven-month period of grief, fear, self-discovery, awakening, education and inward discovery that fell upon so many lives in 2020.
Together Apart – Life in Lockdown is a book project conceived – literally – across the backyard fence by publishing professionals Belinda Jackson (the writer) and June van Daalen (the photographer). Released in late 2020 after the first wave, the book has become a more poignant time stamp than perhaps originally intended. Communicating the views and emotions of a diverse group of Melbournians, the 60 micro-tales continue to hit home as the Delta strain now threatens lives.
Noeline (The Octogenarian) describes her fear of stepping into the supermarket and of the helpless souls left without nursing support in aged-care homes. ‘Yes, in 86, but I’m not ready to go yet,’ she states.
(The Bear Hunters) – three boys who grace the book’s cover in a slightly confused and glum moment hold up their cuddly bear friends in a display of the one joy left in their lockdown lifestyles. The image showcases Jude’s powerful composition and emotional awareness, capturing a moment that transcends the book’s printed pages. The image is one of hope, yet is ironically painted with a layer of hopelessness. It cuts deep upon knowing what’s ahead for my own five-year-old son in the weeks ahead during Victoria’s sixth lockdown.
Hany (The Doctor) outlines just how rigid and exhausting the safety and contingency planning are in his continued effort to protect his patients and family. Then, finally, the reality of the actual dangers of the virus is outlined in stark detail – fearing alarmist and massive infection rates that had impacted Italy and the USA early on, not to mention the claustrophobic, hot and sweaty itch of time beneath the layers of PPE, which is the painful reality faced by our front-line workers.
Then there’s the story of Yasmine (The Only, Lonely Child), an only child who’s seemingly strong-willed yet saddened by the axing of her ninth birthday party due to COVID. ‘Life has become horrible because I can’t see anyone… my friend always seems to be busy when I call them. They have little kids screaming in the background.’
On reflection, Yasmine’s story has become more powerful than a single lockdown event loss. It is a raw and honest statement from a kid whose opportunities to grow, thrive and smile has been stolen away. It’s challenging to think of her situation again this week as Victorians face another extension to our lockdown, and Sydney’s lockdown continues indefinitely.
Well known as a travel journalist, Belinda Jackson has championed the causes of many more individuals whose lives are no less important – The Hairdresser, The Survivor, The Bereaved and The Contented. Having been forced inward in geographic terms, Belinda travels her inner Melbourne circle and is clever to document the voices of many in a tightly edited, yet positively confronting manner.
Librarians around the country have labelled the book a must-keep memoir. Photographic curators have recognised the strength in the visual message. Readers have grasped the fragility of its storytellers’ hearts.
Together Apart – Life in Lockdown is a powerful and contemporary book. It documents a series of everyday and extraordinary moments that help glue together valued faces among Melbourne’s communities. If you’re unsure how to grasp a way forward, Together Apart – Life in Lockdown has excellent potential as both a healing tool and a godsend handbook on ways in which many of us have faced and will continue to deal with the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.
To buy Together Apart, visit: lockdownstories.com.au
If you are in Melbourne, the stories and photographs are currently showing at several exhibitions (open when COVID allows). The Billboards at The Substation arts centre in Newport are an outdoor art exhibition.