BARDO: Summer of '20 | Photography Article by David Babaian

BARDO: Summer of '20

The summer of 2020 was unlike any other in human history. As the Covid-19 pandemic crept its way across the globe, social, political and civil unrest reached climax points in a new and unfamiliar world. Mainstream media outlets reported incessantly on death tolls, scientific statistics and almost nothing else. Social media platforms became the equivalent of football stadiums, pitching one side’s views against another, with comment sections becoming a no-man’s-land of abuse and mounting social divide. People found themselves quickly labelled anything from “conspiracy theorist Covidiots” to “fascist nazis” as society and community began to fracture. These clashes quickly moved themselves from the cyber world into the real world as protests and demonstrations hit the streets around the world on an almost daily basis.

BARDO: Summer of '20 - by David Babaian

Whilst everything was happening at an alarmingly fast pace (and still continues to do so) myself and my 3 colleagues at New Exit Group made a conscious decision to document the social evolution that we were witnessing, but it was important to us to do this as a slow, retrospective piece where the individual puzzle pieces could be laid together to form a cohesive story: a telling of our history.

From April to August 2020, we photographed everything from large scale demonstrations and protests (including those organised by BLM, StandUpX and Extinction Rebellion among others) to religious gatherings and smaller, much more imitate affairs, such as food drives by Hare Krishna groups to support those in need.

BARDO: Summer of '20 - by David Babaian

Between us we shot hundreds of rolls of 35mm black and white film, which we each then developed at home, scanned and then uploaded all images to a shared online drive so we could all see each other’s work. From this point, we each printed around 100 of our own images which we felt best represented what we had experienced and would work alongside the rest of the group’s work. These 400 or so shots marked the beginning of our curation process which Simon has written about here.

After a couple of test runs and some minor tweaks, our first publication - our mission statement - was born. This represents not only the end of a summer of documenting social change, but far more importantly, it represents the beginning of our path into a world of telling visual stories in an honest, empathetic and reflective manner. It breaks away from the conventional, super-fast way of reporting on a story that we have become so used to in mainstream media: live breaking news, often filled with conjecture and bias in place of facts, headed with an out-of-context image designed to insight controversy, cleverly combined with a click-bate style headline.

BARDO: Summer of '20 - by David Babaian

As a photojournalist, I believe that this form of media output is not only irresponsible but dangerous. BARDO represents another way of telling the story, and whilst some of the images are hard-hitting, none of the publication is designed in any way to push an agenda or further a social divide: quite the opposite in fact. Some of what I witnessed over the summer shocked me. Some of it worried me. Some of it made me really happy and restored my faith in humanity. We each have an individual struggle, but throughout this summer and all of its chaos and turbulence, one thing has become clearer to me than ever before: we’re all simply guests on this beautiful planet, and we all want to enjoy the gift of life that we have been given without facing threats, abuse and unnecessary heartache. My hope with this zine is that it shows just how similar we all are. Even though we may see things in different ways depending on our upbringing, religion, beliefs etc, if we learn to understand each other and speak or debate rather than hurl abuse and simply deplatform what we don't agree with, we may see real positive changes in our communities.

BARDO: Summer of '20 - by David Babaian

Thanks for taking the time to read about our new zine! If you enjoyed my photographs here please consider following me on Instagram! I buy all of my film from Analogue Wonderland. You can find the debut zine from my collective, New Exit Group, at this link here.