On this day last year, 23 March 2020, I, like everyone else, went into lockdown. I closed my studio door and went to pick up my other half, who had been made redundant from his job.
I had no idea what was ahead, but I certainly didn’t think that a whole year later I would be stuck at home, effectively unemployed. I was allowed to reopen for a few months last Summer and Autumn, then for the three weeks before Christmas. But all of that time was under strict restrictions that prevented me working with more than one household. And always with social distancing, which made working with babies pretty much impossible.
It has been a very difficult year for sure, financially and mentally. But alongside all the troubles, something interesting happened. I remembered why I became a photographer in the first place.
This photograph, taken in 2014, is one of my all time favourite pictures of my children. It hangs on the wall at home.
In the year leading up to lockdown I would estimate that the photographs I took divided into 95% work and 5% for pleasure. For someone who became a professional photographer because I loved photography so much that I couldn’t bear to do anything else, that was a difficult state of affairs to live with.
I think I was approaching burn out. Much longer and I think I would have forgotten my “why” and my friend and business partner, Robert, deciding to retire last year might have been the point at which I gave up.
I spent the first couple of weeks of lockdown enjoying my garden and exploring my new neighbourhood on daily family walks (we moved house days before lockdown). We saw Spring developing in all its glory, and we started to see a variety of birds in our garden. When we first spotted a squirrel in the garden, my instinct was to grab my camera.
I’ve never been a wildlife photographer. I take portraits, so for anyone who knows a little bit about photography, my lenses are chosen and purchased for fairly close up work in the studio. I don’t own a long zoom lens. So photographing my new friend Cyril the Squirrel, was a challenge. But it got me thinking about techniques and it rekindled my excitement when I got a rare decent shot. I just kept trying.
The next step was to start taking my camera out with me on our walks. We explored much of Royton and Chadderton, sometimes walking up to five miles in the beautiful sunshine. I captured some of it so that we would remember what were actually some blissfully happy times.
As restrictions eased, and we were allowed to spread our wings a little bit, we ventured further afield. I flexed my National Trust card here and there and we ate out to help out in Lytham one gorgeous late summer day.
Winter and further lockdowns put paid to our wanderings, and put an end to the little bit of paid work I managed to do. But recently we have managed to get out a little bit, locally of course, and I have added a few more to my collection of lockdown images.
I even revisited the location of my favourite photograph of my children and took an updated version. It will be going on the wall alongside the original.
So today I reflect on all the things we’ve lost, but also all the things we’ve gained, in these unprecedented 12 months. My self confidence has taken an almighty bashing through being out of work for the best part of a year. But my love of photography as an art form, a hobby and a calling, is refreshed and restored. In the past year my photography has been 5% work and 95% pleasure. Maybe in the next 12 months it can be more 50/50. Anyway, I’m counting the days (20) until I can hopefully get back to work.