Snapshot of life under British lockdown caught in 'time capsule' picture project

A moment in time has been frozen in photographic history, capturing the essence of an extraordinary existence under British lockdown.

Photo issued by Historic England from their Picturing Lockdown Collection by Francesca Brecciaroli showing children taking part in the Joe Wicks PE sessions in the living room of their home in Beckenham, south London.

These images, from the hauntingly familiar to the laughably mundane, will forever paint a picture of what the nation has endured.

And for the first time since the Second World War, this snapshot of public life is to be saved in the Historic England Archive, as a moving record of Britons’ everyday existence through a global pandemic.

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The collection of photographs, creating a “time capsule” of moments, began as an appeal for 100 images captured by the British public.

Photo issued by Historic England from their Picturing Lockdown Collection entitled Upside down world taken by Michaela Strivens in Wallington, south London.

After receiving almost 3,000 submissions, just 200 are to be collated for the Picturing Lockdown Collection, which can be accessed free online.

Claudia Kenyatta, director of regions at Historic England, said: “The fascinating response to our Picturing Lockdown call-out sheds light on our collective and individual experiences of lockdown and provides a snapshot into this unusual time that will be accessible for future generations to see and learn from.

“Our thanks go out to all who submitted their work, to our 10 contemporary artists, and to our photography team who have produced an inspiring range of images.”

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Ann and Alun Ball at home in Fulwood, Sheffield, by Historic England photogapher Alun Bull.

In Yorkshire, there is a CovidDiary podcast from a woman in Ilkley, while several members of Otley Writers’ Group are documenting their experiences through journal notes.

In Huddersfield, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage told Desert Island Discs he had been compelled to pen a poem on the coronavirus and ensuing lockdown from his home.

The 56-year-old, from Marsden, said he felt a duty to write Lockdown, which begins with being unable to “escape the waking dream of infected fleas”.

With the Historic England project, communities across the country had been asked to share images documenting their own experience over the course of seven days in lockdown from April 29 to May 5.

Photo issued by Historic England from their Picturing Lockdown Collection taken by Historic England photographer Steven Baker of the tunnel that leads to his nearest open space for daily exercise in Victory Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Historic England, launching the appeal, had said it wanted to record the nation’s “collective experience”, helping people to navigate the time with reflection, expression and creativity.

“We’re facing one of the most extraordinary moments in living memory,” the body said in its appeal. “We are living through history.

“With its origins recording the destruction of buildings in the Second World War, the Historic England Archive has a long history of documenting the archaeology, historic buildings and social history of England.

“Picturing Lockdown offers an opportunity for us all to reflect on recent events and what they mean to us, share our thoughts and experiences with others, and record them for future generations.”

Photo issued by Historic England from their Picturing Lockdown Collection of Owen Bull, just before his 14th birthday, planting vegetable seeds in the garden due to the difficulty in getting food deliveries during lockdown, taken by Historic England photographer Alun Bull.

Frozen archive

The archive captures seven days of lockdown, from the bright rainbow paintings to claps for carers, with neighbours enthusiastically banging pots and cheering from doorsteps across the country.

There are the eerie images of empty streets, a hauntingly sad funeral procession, with families pausing in prayer while striving to maintain a safe social distance.

And there are the images of everyday life, and versatility, as families adapt to working and living in small spaces or teenagers learned to sow seedlings.

In some of the images are those key workers who have continued in their roles throughout, from cleaners to shopkeepers, donning protective equipment every day.

And there are also the acts of everyday kindness, with people sewing masks or setting up street libraries to share books with strangers.

The final collection, which has been expanded due to the size of the response, consists of 100 public submissions, 50 commissioned works by 10 contemporary artists, with the remainder from Historic England’s photographers.

Historic England said the project aims to “spark conversations about identity” and has now “created a unique and reflective record of a week across the nation, during this extraordinary moment in history”.

The pictures can be viewed at www.historicengland.org.uk/picturinglockdown

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