As one would expect, the current lockdown has provided many opportunities for photographers. The changes in everyone’s lives, and the urban environment, are both an opportunity and a challenge. With such focus on one subject by so many people it is not easy to come up with a photograph that says more than many other similar images. Although I write this during work focussing on B&W photography, I don’t want to ignore colour. Some of the works that I write about here may well have worked as well in B&W and some may not.
I find the idea of the real world being slightly (or even not so slightly) obscured at present is a useful metaphor. We do not know how this will end or when, so finding ways to invoke a lack of clarity can work well. This is by Alec Soth, sourced from a Guardian article(1).
(View at https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5c6bcf4a9326d901545a3c1acdc9fd8b9af17a03/0_0_3680_4600/master/3680.jpg?width=1920&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=6dccf59e6b1bb206cb05f6151d3d9b10)
Much of his work has concerned people living ‘off grid’, so the idea of a letter as a means of communication is very symbolic here. The letter can break through the lockdown barrier and allow communication, and the screen alludes to the world outside being off limits.
Again from the same article(1), this time by Nadav Kander
(View at https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8272df44b4c22086424d34c0aa7dac2b14b5d959/0_0_7702_6106/master/7702.jpg?width=1920&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=a235898a3437792745143e90c886f329)
As Kander says, the idea of the veil between the viewer and the scene is alluring; the image becomes more dreamlike than it would without the veil. To me this works really well; there is much about the current situation that seems dream like. All days begin to seem the same, routine becomes even more routine, and the outside world gets that bit further away.
In an article in Metro(2), Caroline White has made a series of photographs of people inside windows.
(View at https://i1.wp.com/metro.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PRI_151305418.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&zoom=1&resize=768%2C511&ssl=1)
Although there is a wide variety in these images, I don’t feel that these work as illustrations of lockdown. Her position outside the windows suggest she is not part of the lockdown; that may be true for some people – no names – but it’s not a stand point I’m particularly comfortable with. Using the same structure for all the images also gives too much repetition to the set.
On Creativeboom.com(3) Jan Enckelmann has taken photographs of deserted London streets at night.
(View at https://www.creativeboom.com/uploads/articles/28/28efafce3ced329f189d8dd851287f3a7473977a_2200.jpg)
He makes good use of colour to apply a sense of otherworldliness to what would otherwise be busy streets. Although one could say these could just as well be scenes from very late at night on any day, it is hard to believe these locations would normally be this empty.