Documenting history for future generations

Photographer hopes to create a multimedia exhibit about the pandemic

Rebecca Lippiatt is more than a photographer: she also has a degree in microbiology, along with an interest in history and pandemics. So it’s no surprise she is applying for a grant to document the pandemic in the area.

Lippiatt plans to apply for Edmonton Heritage Council’s project accelerator grant, along with the RCP. She would photograph area residents outside their homes (from a distance), long lines in front of grocery stores, and empty streets.  

“I would love to photograph different families and individuals outside their homes and where one or both parents are working out of the home,” says Lippiatt. “[I also] want to document people who are the support structure of our society and are working through the pandemic, including paramedics, nurses, postal workers, and grocery store staff. I would like to photograph these people in their work uniforms to help create a sense of who these people are and what they do for us.” 

If she receives the grant, she would hire a few writers to collect stories from people and perform interviews.

Lippiatt was inspired by photos of people during previous pandemics and wanted to know how they managed and what daily life was like for them. “I want to give that information to future generations. Seeing photographers doing front porch shoots gave me the seed of the idea of how to document this.”

She would likely take photos of two families from every block on Alberta Avenue, along with business owners in front of their stores, particularly since so many of them are family-run.

If all goes well, she would create a multimedia gallery exhibit involving photography, written portions, and recorded interviews. She would like to hold the exhibition somewhere local like the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts. As the exhibition is intended to be an archival project, she hopes that it can be shown every decade or so.

When the project is finished, Lippiatt plans to submit it to the City of Edmonton Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta so that the gallery could be stored for future exhibits.

Documenting this unprecedented time is important. The last pandemic of this scale was the Spanish Flu, which happened over a century ago. 

“My children’s great-grandmother was born in 1912 and remembers the Spanish Flu coming through Britannia Beach [B.C.],” says Lippiatt. “She had to nurse everyone in her household. She was six years old. She remembers the coffins coming down from the mountain.”

She loves documentary photography and says this project would be important to share with future generations. 

“I think having the detail would be very important. Our grandchildren are going to be asking about this pandemic,” Lippiatt says. “How awesome would it be to hand this down to future generations?”


Featured Image: Rebecca Lippiatt plans to photograph local residents outside their homes. | Rebecca Lippiatt

Talea Medynski

Talea is the Rat Creek Press editor. She loves sharing the stories of our diverse neighbourhoods.

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