The year the world shut down

Sam Tench / Photo blogs / / 2 Comments

I don’t think I ever believed 2020 would result in extreme and enduring changes.  However, we continue to study and work from home; many people are temporarily unemployed; we attend meetings through Zoom; and we enjoy limited or no travel opportunities. Many of us have accepted the need to lockdown with little notice to help curb the spread of a virus that seems to mutate at a furious rate. It’s a lot to digest in a relatively short period.

Plus, there are a few more things to worry about. For instance, dealing with an innate sense of being unsafe in a world we have no control over.  And the genuine fear of contracting COVID-19, feeling worried about the vulnerable people in our lives and helping them to stay safe. What a minefield we are having to navigate!

Since creating The Picture Healer, I’ve become an avid observer of my surroundings. I’ve blogged my way through countless periods of great anxiety and sadness. Surprisingly, this process has helped me through a year that never backed off or gave any respite.  And as I sit here today, I feel a sense of sadness as I look at the state of our nation. For as long as I can remember, Australia has been greatly recognised for the easy going nature of its people. Always willing and ready to stand up and help out.

Somewhere along the long road full of obstacles, we’ve become a country stuck in a harmful ‘them versus us mentality”.   The believers and the non-believers, the pro vaccinators and those who choose not to vaccinate, and a social media seemingly determined to paint a picture of the worst possible scenario. Perhaps most disturbing, this mentality has pushed our political system into overdrive as we watch opposing parties become increasingly politically divided.  Parties are expressing very different points of view and belittling any action or opinion that differs from their own.  All this noise has left me feeling somewhat stuck and lost for words as I struggle with the mass of information and my mind is questioning, “Is this as good as it’s going to get?”

COVID-19 has managed to unhinge us in many ways.  Where has our sense of unity gone? Our undying passion for doing the right thing?

My 18-month struggle

Uninspired, disappointed, tedious and dull describe my 2020, and I have no desire to return.  I haven’t been shy in admitting my truth; this pandemic has been a significant struggle. COVID-19 and 2020 not only brought a pandemic,  but also an immeasurable sense of internal struggle that has left me feeling lost, scared and selfish.

“I need time and opportunities to go outside and explore with my camera; after all, the Doctor told me so. But we’re in lockdown. That’s against the rules. I’ll get into trouble! What about my website?  The blogs, when will I find the time or energy to write those now I have two children at home 24/7?   Then I have my parents to think about!  I won’t leave them to their devices.  It all feels impossible and probably harmful to try and keep up with everything.  There’s only one choice; the Picture Healer will have finish up before she even got started, so typical.”

That was my thinking for much of 2020.  Yet my actions spoke of a different reality. With an inner sense of determination, quitting wasn’t an option.  Each day I pushed forward, learning new skills and speaking my truth unapologetically as I blogged my way through the year.  

Pleasingly, despite being stuck at home for much of 2020, I took an impressive number of pictures. They were not the beautiful landscapes I’d become accustomed to shooting, but those I could take took on a whole new light.

How will I survive this ordeal if I can’t leave my home or experience new places?    A big lingering question surrounded the subjects I would shoot.  My train of thought had convinced me there was no better place to take beautiful photos than surrounded by beautiful landscapes?  I believed home photography would be as productive as taking photos of the white walls inside my home.

During lockdown, I began to notice the massive scope of potential subjects sitting all around me in my everyday surroundings. COVID-19 entered the picture and brought a lot of despair, no arguments here! But it also has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.


Followed by a transformation

Truth be told, capturing white walls is exactly what I did!  I took the mundane out of everyday living and transformed them into something interesting, something unique and appealing to the eye.    From the fallen head of a flower, the sheer curtains that hang in my bedroom window, and photographs capturing the light as it reflects on my floors, nothing was underwhelming.  Little did I know, this would become a time when my creativity would begin to go a little bit wild.  At first, I wondered what I would do with these unusual photos that were accumulating on the hard drive of my laptop. I questioned who would want to see such photos that, in hindsight, are deeply reflective of my defiance and resilience.


New Year’s Eve, 2020

On this very different looking night of celebrations, I sat at home alone (with a very good reason). Like many others, I was all too keen to say goodbye to 2020 and eagerly awaiting the arrival of 2021.  As I enjoyed the silence,  glancing through my vast collection of photographs while simultaneously channel surfing my way through various news programs, I continued to question what purpose they served? What could I do with them? I couldn’t see the slightest sense of purpose for them to stay on my laptop.

Thank goodness I didn’t press the delete button!  Out of nowhere, when I was least expecting it, as I glanced up at the TV, listening to reporters and watching heart-wrenching footage from the year departing, an idea gushed into my mind without a hint of notice.  Experiencing what can be described as a conversation taking place within my own mind, ideas, concepts and images flooded my consciousness at a pace I struggled to keep up with. As it turns out, this idea would put to rest the lingering questions I had been experiencing regarding the purpose and validity of my lockdown experience and my many photographs. Filled with a range of contradictory emotions; excited but overwhelmed, confident but doubtful, determined but hesitant, I began to scribble notes on paper, just in case I was onto something.

This intriguing idea, a book, wouldn’t leave me alone until I had explored the concept more thoroughly. I recall my initial thoughts:

A pictorial book with minimal text will serve as a reminder of how difficult we’ve all managed to find our way through.  What an achievement. Good on us.  On some level, it would be a personal representation of where I’ve come from and a reminder of the real possibilities moving forward.   I wasn’t satisfied with a ‘just for me book’; I had a greater purpose in mind.  This would be my contribution, my way of doing something selfless, to help others who may still be in a world of struggle to this very day, as we continue to manage our lives around the pandemic and all the uncertainty it brings. In years to come, my hope? To have created an insight into the history, one person’s lived experience through the pandemic. And in doing so, remembering, my story is your story and most likely very similar to the person who lives next door to you. Lastly, I hoped to create a resource for future generations; my grandkids! Something to look back on in acknowledgement of that year, 2020, when COVID-19 took over and changed the lives of our families so many years ago.

The underlying message (without giving too much away) is that everyone’s experience counts.  We all came into the pandemic with different backgrounds, illnesses and opinions.  If there is a time to act selflessly for the greater good, I believe that time is right now. I’ve realised that the very fact I’m standing here today says a lot about my character.  The same can be said about you and your character.   I hope one word particular word comes to mind: resilient. Are you paying attention? This word is important.

Just a little peak!

As the release of my book draws near, I’m excited to share small details that have consumed me for much of 2021.  The book tells our collective stories (yours and mine) from 2020.  It highlights the potential we have as human beings, even in the face of adversity.  It is a coffee table book featuring a mixture of narrative and photographs captured throughout our time at home in lockdown.  It features many pictures taken in my local area (Geelong and Melbourne) while most businesses were forced to stay closed. Some pictures are very raw, taken during times of real internal struggles. Others may seem completely random as you find yourself questioning, “What is that strange picture all about?” That’s the beauty of this book; it doesn’t need to make much sense at all!   The content I have chosen to share is candid and authentic.   As you’ll see from the following excerpt from the blurb, honesty is something I can guarantee.



Take-home message

Take me as a living example when I say this pandemic experience hasn’t been totally negative.  From anguish and sadness, I’ve managed to do something pretty impressive. I’ve written and illustrated a book!  My children are super proud of me; they think I’m a famous author!  Until the effects of the pandemic set in, the achievement is something I’d never dared think about, let alone set out and follow through with. I believe we all have the potential to find that shimmer of positivity. It may seem small at first but take the time to have a good look inside.   Your light will come shining through soon enough.

And it turns out, this period spent inside with two young children, blogging and photographing the four walls of my house (from every possible perspective) has not only been productive but also pretty rewarding.   Stay tuned for further updates on my mystery book’s release date. COMING SOON!


  1. Julie Johnson  —  4 August 2021 at 11:24 pm

    Terrific blog Sam and so pleased to hear that the book I want to purchase of your wonderful photography will soon become available. This has been a remarkable journey for all of us but also fighting the pandemic and an ED at the same time with anxiety for us all at an all time high is remarkable. Congratulations on every milestone you have achieved they have all been a major indication of your will to live a positive, healthy life but also to give something back to the rest of the community. One R word that you did not use but I have felt it on a few occasions is RESENTFUL. I have a husband and children who find it difficult as we are in the country, to keep to the rules. As I have also been way out of my league for dealing with things unknown as well I confess I have felt resentful and irritated by their inabiity to take this pandemic as seriously as I have and this has put me in a bad space sometimes as well. This year has also been very difficult with the passing of my wonderful father and just trying to organise a memorial worthy of him around a lockdown. We all continue to have our challenges, but I am so thrilled with what the small beginnings of a thread of an idea for you has culminated in a creative, beautiful experience of which you should be very proud. Lots of love Julie xxxx

    • Sam Tench  —  5 August 2021 at 10:38 am

      Thank you, Julie.
      Such a good point! I’m with you in regards to your ‘RESENTFUL’ comment. I don’t enjoy the rules any more than the next person, I’ll do the best I can to follow them. And I’m not scared to admit that I had no hesitation in getting fully vaccinated. In my view, that’s the least I can do for the benefit of myself and the people around me. I too feel super frustrated when particular people object to how this is being dealt with. Lots of arguments have taken place in our home, lol! Actually, it frustrates me whenever I read of people in general who think it’s a whole lot of rubbish! What will it take?

      I’m sorry about your Dad and that I was not able to attend his funeral. It has been a tough year for you; I hope you’re managing through it all. Can you do something you enjoy? (if you can with current restrictions). I always find that helps when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. Different circumstances though, I get that. Look after yourself, I’ll have more news soon.
      Thanks again. xxx


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