Teddy Bear and Rainbow

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

As the State of Victoria went into its’ first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, teddy bears and soft toys began to appear in household windows to entertain children and lift community spirits.

Yoga Teddy
Yoga teddy, COVID-19 pandemic, Fairfield, 2020.

Inspired by the popular children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, children in Victoria – and worldwide – were encouraged to walk their neighbourhoods looking for teddy bears.

Teddy bear and rainbow (L) and Two teddies(R), COVID-19 pandemic, Northcote, 2020.

In the Melbourne suburb of Northcote, psychologist and artist Myra Holmes began to photograph teddy bears as she walked her dog Colby. ‘Discovering these teddies was a heart-warming sight, even as an adult’, recalls Myra.

Woman sitting on the front step with her dog
Myra with her dog Colby during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.
‘It seemed they were each saying a quiet and friendly hello to those passing by and reaching out with the message that although we were strangers, we were also part of a community and together during this challenging time.’ Myra Holmes
Teddy Bear in Tree (L) and 'You Found Me' Teddies in Window (R), COVID-19 Pandemic, Northcote, 2020.
Waving Teddy(L) and Toy Sloth in Window (R), COVID-19 Pandemic, Northcote, 2020.

For Myra, the personal challenges of lockdown and isolation were compounded due to an unexpected medical issue: ‘During lockdown I had the frightening experience of losing sight in one eye and even after surgery I could not see very well and had difficulties driving and working from home.’

Reflection of a woman and her dog on the street in the window
Self-portrait by Myra Holmes with her dog Colby during COVID-19 lockdowns, 2020.

With her vision impaired, Myra utilised her camera’s automatic focus settings and found that photographing teddies became a ‘welcome relief’ and part of her own healing process: ‘it gave me a reason to explore the streets in my neighborhood, which made me feel more connected to my local community at a difficult time.’

Injured teddy bear (L) and Pinocchio and teddies in window (R), COVID-19 pandemic, Northcote, 2020.
E.T. and Ossie Ostrich toys (L) and Soft toys in window (R), COVID-19 pandemic, Northcote, 2020

Over weeks and months Myra ended up photographing hundreds of teddy bears. ‘Each one seemed to tell its own story’, she recalls, ‘many were very cute, others worn and much loved and some very cheeky. They gave me joy, and I'm sure they lifted the spirits of many other children, and adults alike, who were in need of some hope and optimism.’

Toy koala in the window (L) and Teddy on the balcony (R), COVID-19 pandemic, Northcote, 2020.

With the support of the Office for Suburban Development, these photographs have been acquired into Museums Victoria’s State Collection, providing a lasting reminder of the creative ways that Victorian communities came together to support one another through COVID-19 lockdowns.

This story was collected and written by Catherine Forge in collaboration with Myra Holmes.