How did you spend the Lockdown? I spent it looking up – not in a life affirming, positive way, but quite literally looking up – at the skies above me. Living under the Heathrow flightpath this would normally result in seeing loads of planes, but with air travel severely curtailed there was so much more to see; birds, clouds, helicopters, moons, super moons, and more clouds.
I used to think we had birds in the garden but now I know we have sparrows, starlings, pigeons, black birds, parrots, collared doves, goldfinches, robins and red kites. It’s an education this looking up, although I’m a bit old for home schooling. We’ve also had a load of gulls, normally resident at the seaside but with people on lockdown presumably easy food is in short supply.
The environmental impact of the pandemic has been quite dramatic with air pollution levels worldwide dropping considerably, and recent studies suggesting that the pandemic could have been far worse had the lockdown not been enforced and air pollution levels significantly reduced. The most notable thing for me though was the reduction in noise pollution – it’s very difficult to hold a conversation on certain flightpaths from Heathrow as the planes are so low and so frequent.
Before deciding to start this project though, I had initially wandered the streets photographing socially distant queues, people wearing PPE, empty streets, and signs put up in shops that had closed or were operating strict admission criteria, before I realised that a lot of other photographers would be doing the same, and the last thing I wanted to produce was more of the same.
So I thought back to my time at photography college, and my first ever project which was to go out and discover Newcastle-upon-Tyne (that’s where I studied photography). We were very much encouraged to “look up”, and what I saw was a very beautiful place; very different to the photos my Uncle had shown me of a smog filled city. Being our first project we had to shoot it on black and white film and develop it ourselves (ahh, those were the days). Using this as inspiration I decided that I would look up from the confines of my garden (and my daily permitted exercise) and photograph what I saw in black and white, which resulted in some quite striking graphic imagery, as you can see from the gallery of images below (click on and image to expand the gallery). You can also download a PDF of a selection of the images here.
The biggest problem with looking up though is that I now have a sore neck…