New photo book documents how residents of Hebden Bridge spent lockdown

IN the middle of a pandemic the word infectious means only one thing to most - a disease spreading rampantly.

Gerard Liston - author of an online book with portrait photos and comments from people living in the Upper Calder Valley during lockdown

Photographer Gerard Liston, who lives near Hebden Bridge, admits using “infectious” as the title for a project documenting what was keeping people’s spirits up after a year of lockdown was “slightly provocative”.

However he says he also found that “enthusiasm, laughter and even a smile can be infectious too”..

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“Infectious” is an online book of more than 40 portrait photographs and comments from people in the Upper Calder Valley, recorded by the photographer between the start of the third lockdown in March and the easing of restrictions in July.

Jess chilling near Lumb Falls, above Hebden Bridge Picture: Gerard Liston

People were asked what had kept them positive and lifted their spirits during the challenges of the previous year. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the different ways people buck themselves up - be it from gardening, doing “freestyle croquet” to plunging into a chilly stream, like Jess (pictured).

She said: “It is such a rush and so exhilarating that it is almost addictive”.

Everyone has their own take on how to remain positive - like Alan, whose secret was “first to stop watching BBC News”. Pictured soaking up the sun in a deckchair while manning a car park, he was sure keeping up Vitamin D levels was helping.

Meanwhile cricketer Jawad told Mr Liston they sanitised between overs, adding: “The team we have are like family and I enjoy getting together with everyone for a catch up and, more importantly, to enjoy the game we all love.”

Danni, Hope Chapel, Hebden Bridge Picture: Gerard Liston

Mr Liston says he enjoys documentary photography as he finds people interesting. He said: “It was something I could do to mark this time in history, recording something which is an important time for us all.

“(The idea was) to make it freely available - no one makes any money out of it - and doing it out of personal interest and motivation.”

His first portrait was taken in Hope Chapel, a “fabulous little” chapel, in the middle of Hebden Bridge of friend Vikki Uttley with her bucket and flannel continuing a labour of love of cleaning up after flooding and restoration work. “That was the starting point,” said Mr Liston, who is a trustee. “It rolled on from there, she introduced me to the next person.”

Some portraits were taken of people who caught his eye, including a beaming couple called Henry and Caroline, who were delighting in being out in Hebden Bridge after the restrictions had lifted.

Henry and Caroline enjoying being out in Hebden Bridge after restructions eased Picture: Gerard Liston

“The best thing about lockdown was that we were able to spend more time together,” they said.

Mr Liston said he began the project for a creative outlet: “Initially I was just curious to find out how people in my local community were coping but then felt privileged and inspired as they shared personal stories about responding to this global catastrophe.”

The book is freely available at https://issuu.com/gerard-liston/docs/infectious