With a national lockdown, Gray found ways to create new work while championing the local essential workers keeping the country connected
For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a deeper understanding of the important work done by the essential workers all around us. From nurses, teachers, care home workers and emergency services, millions of people work hard every day to keep the nation moving. Many of these people may carry out roles so integral to society that they can go unnoticed. Cassian Gray, a photography student at Kingston University, was forced to produce his graduate project from home, due to the national lockdown. On his daily walks around the neighborhood, The red uniforms of local Royal Mail worker caught his attention. In The Posties, these officers take centre stage.
Without the ability to travel, anda lack of access to university photography equipment, Gray had no way of completing his original project, a series that would see him travelling to Spain and reflecting on family. When it became apparent this wouldn’t be possible, Gray was forced to create new photographs with what he had. Instead of limiting him, this led to a series that could only exist within his neighbourhood.
“I became excited by the iconography of the post officer — the red uniform is so bold,” says Gray. “Despite the striking colour, postal workers can often be overlooked, despite delivering mail and packages to the nation, keeping us connected through the pandemic,” Gray explains. “I went out one morning and started meeting postal workers on their rounds. I found out that there was a depo near my house, so I decided to check it out.”
While there, Gray met the workers keeping Kingston moving. “ I had been going to the depo a few times, then one of the guys that I was photographing introduced me to Claudia, another post officer. I wouldn’t have been able to shoot what I did without her; she organised the whole team, got people together, and asked all her colleagues if I could take their pictures.” This collaboration is at the heart of Gray’s project. The Posties does not just document the postal officers of Kingston, but becomes a memento to those Gray met: behind their red uniform, every postal worker has a story.
The Posties is not the work Gray imagined himself producing this year. But, Gray used the pandemic as a moment to further understand the people around him, getting to know the faces of those keeping us together.
Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.