Socially Distanced Portraiture, an Introduction

To begin, this project started as a study of landscape development and local gentrification through exploration of how the UK was moving forward with power and energy, with the rise of green energy and subsequent decrease and removal of traditional power stations. The aim was to explore the effects this was having on a local level by visiting and documenting the towns and local areas which had been affected and how the landscape changed as a result of the now absent landmarks which had become a part of the community. I photographed the demolition of Ironbridge Power Station in Telford to document this change in landscape, with the hope of revisiting this site and others to re-photograph them and document the change in landscape over time. I was forced to abandon this project due to the national lockdown last spring as I could no longer travel further than my immediate home. Although I will still be working on this theme once everything returns to normal, the project then morphed into a documentation of the 2020 UK lockdown through capturing portraits of people living in the North West of England.

The basis of the project was to create a connection between the subject and the viewer through a socially distanced environmental portrait. Each photograph in this series shows the subjects in their home environment, whether quite literally outside the front door or within an environment the subject would call home such as a garden. I wanted each photograph to show the viewer something about the subject in a subtle way so that the information was there for the viewer to unpack, either who the person is or where they are. I also wanted to explore the idea that everyone had lived through the same event during the 2020 lockdown but in vastly different ways through individual experiences and different geographical areas. I wanted each shot to feel unique and to show the subjects space with a personal feel to each image as if using the photograph as a window into peoples’ personal spaces or the home environment during a time of forced isolation.

This project has changed and adapted with the everchanging rules of Britain’s lockdown, meaning that each stage had allowed me to explore the project in different ways as the restrictions changed. I started incorporating photo walks into the project to work with other creatives and shoot in different locations and situations, which by virtue expanded the projects visual material and cultural coverage.

A major theme of this work that I want to explore in the next six days worth of posts here on Two Forty Four’s blog is the connections between the people I have met and interacted with since the start of the lockdown in March 2020. Each day I will be posting a new portrait and a bit about the person, my connection to them and why I decided to photograph them.

To start off this week I’m going to share where this work started with some initial portraits of my family. Like many, I started lockdown stuck at home and decided to use the time to document my time during isolation. I also had a large amount of Kodak film, which I bulk bought in case the Kodak factories shut down production over the lockdown, so I wanted to test it out. My family try to live a sustainable lifestyle with a lot of work outdoors growing food, looking after animals and self-maintaining our home. So, it was interesting to photograph and become involved in this environment and in a way reconnect with that aspect of home life through photography, adding a personal element of nostalgia to the project. Included are images of my parents and sister, taken during this initial exploration of working in lockdown.

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