The lockdowns introduced in the UK this year have created strange new landscapes that people have found jarring, alien and interesting in varying degrees. A number of artists and organisations have taken it upon themselves to capture this new world in different ways.
One of the earliest lockdown projects, the Picturing Lockdown Collection in the Historic England Archives, collected images in April and May of this year. The collection contains contributions from ten specially commissioned artists alongside images from Historic England’s own photographers and submissions from the public, and intends to provide a record of experiences of lockdown in England, captured during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talking to The Net Gallery, Head of Public Programming at Historic England Ellen Harrison stated that “The idea came about not long after lockdown was announced. As a public organisation, we knew we wanted to help people to pause, reflect on and express their experiences of lockdown. We also, in a small way, wanted to support a number of artists at this time and ended up commissioning ten across England.”
In this article, we look at work by two artists – TNG member Andy Ash and photographer Paul Meyler – who have both initiated their own artistic projects based around lockdown photography.
TNG Member Andy Ash’s #isolationartviews project has been shared by the artist via Instagram as he waited in isolation to protect his vulnerable daughters. Back in March, Ash set himself the daily challenge to collect different views from the window of his flat, posting a new one each day to his Instagram account. In a blog post on his website, he explains: “I can’t go to the studio, the university is shut till [September], and I do not leave the flat very often so I wanted to use the chance to make art from this confined space. I set out to make a record of this moment in time, to try to be creative with very little and to observe the new virus world as it passes my window.”
Over lockdown, Ash has amassed a large number of these images that cover a range of issues. He is currently working to compile them as a book of lockdown scenes: “This is the longest period of time I have ever spent in this small flat. I still struggle with depression and anxiety so the lockdown brings with it many daily challenges. This is a way of taking one day and a time, to make art and reflect on this situation. I hope I can make a photographic catalogue from this experience and this series of work.”
Another artist, London photographer Paul Meyler, has made lockdown the subject of his latest photography project, titled “Stillness of London”. Typically working with creative agencies, publishers and brands, Meyler is a lifestyle and advertising photographer based in London and the South East. He strives to create natural images and his photographs are often colourful, authentic and engaging.
On his newest project, Meyler notes:
“Throughout the weeks of lockdown, I wanted to photograph and produce a series of shots to show the eerie stillness of London. I have never seen the streets of the capital so quiet – the usual hustle and bustle like a distant memory as people stay at home to protect each other from Covid-19. I clocked up the miles cycling around London to photograph rare moments of people alone on their daily walks, gazing into windows of deserted shops, or just taking a few minutes to take in the extreme conditions that are unlike anything we have ever experienced.”
Paul’s new work has been featured in the Covid Photo Museum, a virtual museum of COVID-19 photography that features a curated selection of thought-provoking images from the time of quarantine. This non-profit initiative was started by a group of artists who describe themselves as “a few friends who appreciate good photography and the importance of creating a historical record”.
On his inclusion in the Museum, Paul Meyler says that “after submitting a series of images, it was great to hear that the CPM would like to show my series ‘Stillness of London’ within the Solo Series.” Other “Solo Series” featured in the Museum include Alberto Giuliani’s photographs of faces on the front line (now part of a Unilever-Dove campaign) and Max Siedentopf’s alternative masks.
Also on the Covid Photo Museum is a series of curated exhibitions featuring work by photographers from all over the world. For example, the exhibition “1.5 meters apart” aims to “visually showcase the distance between us. The result is an eerie and symmetric pattern formed in the mist mundane everyday spaces, from supermarkets to hospitals.” The subjects of curated photos in this exhibition include Serbian military beds, Wuhan workers eating lunch and a “social-distance dance and fitness event for residents of Springbourne” captured by English photographer Chris Furlong.
The goal of the Covid Photo Museum is to capture the time of quarantine in 2019-2020 from a global perspective through photographs from both known professional photographers and everyday people. This is a truly remarkable period of history, and the artists behind the Covid Photo Museum have created it “to function as a living and breathing time capsule of life in the time of quarantine” and highlight “the many talented photographers who are able to capture a unique moment or perspective” in this world.
Article by Toby Buckley.
You can learn more about Andy Ash via his profile on The Net Gallery, and via his website.
You can visit Paul Meyler’s website, here.
The image shown at the top of the page is: “Walking Pass an Angel, Ebor Street” by Paul Meyler.