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E17 Artist in the Spotlight: Alastair Fyfe

Since January, photographer and Creative Works member Alastair Fyfe has been photographing in COVID-19 vaccination centres to help with government public messaging. 

If you live in E17, you may have seen his photographs on various leaflets and in Waltham Forest Council’s newspaper (check out the Instagram post below, for reference). 

As part of the E17 Art Trail 2021, we’re inviting you to Creative Works on 10 July—anytime between 2pm and 6pm—to see a selection of Alastair’s portraits of the borough’s vaccination volunteers and learn more about their motivations for helping out. 

Alastair will also be running a creative children’s activity inspired by his work, so be sure to bring your little ones along!

While photographing volunteers for Groundwork and the council, Alastair became curious about their backstories.

“The vaccination volunteers come from all walks of life, from students, employees who are furloughed, retired people—even those who work for the council and have been trained as a vaccinator. I’ve chosen 12 volunteers for the exhibition at Creative Works,” says Alastair. 

“As well as displaying their portraits, I asked each person to respond to some questions about why they wanted to volunteer and what they do when they’re not volunteering.”

“There are tales of happiness and laughter from people who have given up their time and show up and help. The stories are varied and interesting —one volunteer was a political activist in the Philippines under Marcos rule.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, all of Alastair’s scheduled work disappeared. He had a great year mapped out and was about to embark on a cushty trip to Bangkok for a US client. 

He was also due to photograph the boat race for Cambridge University. 

“Then the university called and told me they were cancelling the boat race. My whole calendar cleared and I ended up homeschooling my boys for most of the year,” he adds.

Groundwork approached Alastair in January 2021 to photograph in the vaccination centres, and since then he’s been photographing more locally for a variety of clients. 

“I’m working directly for the East End Trades Guild. I photographed Sian Berry, the Green candidate for Mayor of London 2021. She came for a tour of the Blackhorse Road area and Shamil from Armstrong Audio was the guide. Straight after that shoot I had to rush off to Walthamstow Library to photograph the volunteers!”

Alastair also took part in The Mill’s Lockdown Through the Lens exhibition.

“I photographed my son’s year three class in lockdown; he and I went to visit each of his classmates and took a picture of them on their doorstep. I put the images together to create one complete class photo which I’m planning to give to the school.” 

Alastair’s vaccination centre photography in Waltham Forest’s newspaper. 

Decoding people’s facial expressions when they’re wearing a mask can be challenging, but it’s something we’ve all become better at over the last 18 months or so.

For his activity, Alastair will be giving each child a badge of a blank face with a mask on. Their task is to look at the portraits and decide whether the people in them are smiling and welcoming, then replicate these feelings and expressions in their own drawings. 

There’s no right or wrong interpretation. 

It ties in with the idea that behind the masks are people you might not notice very much, but when you look a little closer, there’s a whole story motivation there. Halal jelly sweets will also be available—which we’ve already taste tested, of course!

You can catch Alastair’s work in Creative Works from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, until 18 July, as part of the E17 Art Trail 2021. 

Be sure to come along to our event, Connecting Communities, on Saturday 10 July, where you’ll have the chance to take part in the activities and chat to Alastair—and the other artists we’re exhibiting—in person.

7 Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow E17 6DS