On 24th March 2020 the people of the UK had their daily lives transformed as the country entered a war on corona virus. Travel was limited, social gatherings were banned, queues formed outside shops, toilet roll was a commodity worth more than gold and all non-essential work was stopped. What a time to be self employed…..
There were many lists of those businesses that were and were not allowed to open. There were guidelines set in place and recommendations made. The Government promised help to those who could not work, but it was never going to be blanket coverage.
Photographers did not seem to appear on any list – clearly, it would be ill-advised to open the studio and wholly irresponsible to photograph anyone up close, never mind babies and young children. So, I closed the doors to my studio and assured everyone that as soon as I was allowed, and it was safe I would re-open.
My heart broke every time a bride contacted me to discuss new dates for a wedding that was long awaited and now would be pushed back further. My heart broke when mums had their babies and couldn’t come to me to have their first days captured forever. My heart broke when the babies I had photographed last year turned one and the cake smashes we had planned had to be put on hold. However, this is the new normal and we simply have to adhere to the guidelines to ensure we are safe, and those around us are safe. On top of all of this, I also have a husband who is furloughed so we really needed to find something to keep us occupied!
Within days I missed picking up my camera. I took lots of photos of the dogs, of our house, of the birds on the bird feeder, but it just isn’t the same as capturing the personalities and the cheeky smiles and the moments that made me love photography as much as I do.
In America, there was lots of talk of “Doorstep Portraits”. It was a highly contentious subject as the photographers that were doing them were travelling around and charging clients for a photoshoot outside their home, and that didn’t sit right by me. Non-essential travel – a big no no.
Now I am not and never really have been a rule breaker (useless fact about me, I never, ever, not once bunked a day off school). There was a lot about this new trend that didn’t sit comfortably with me. But it niggled away at me and I kept thinking about how I could do it to help and to bring some good……..
I posted on our village Facebook page that I would be coming out on set dates to offer doorstep photos to families that wanted them. The response was amazing. I simply asked for a £10.00 donation to an NHS charity. The photos, I assured them, would be taken using a large zoom lens so no contact was necessary, and I would be more than two meters away. All we needed to do was to set the time and the date and for the family to wait outside their house for me to arrive.
On 25th April I started my project. Most of the houses I walked to, but there were a couple on the edge of the village that I drove to – so as not to break any rules or guidelines I did those as part of my journey to the shops to buy groceries. I loved meeting neighbours I had never had the chance to meet and talk to properly before.
The new Priest-in- charge of the local church, St Mary’s had some done and it was lovely to chat to her and tell her a little more about life in Fawkham. She came to the church not long before lockdown so hadn’t had a chance to get to know people yet.
It was amazing to give my time to capture people in their own homes, and it is something I would really like to encourage once the pandemic subsides. The requests kept coming and the donations poured in. No one – not one person – paid only the requested amount of £10. We raised over £400 for our amazing NHS teams.
But it didn’t stop there………once I pick my camera up it is so hard to stop so I carried on, documenting life in our little village of Fawkham in Kent during the global pandemic of 2020.
All around the village, people were drawing rainbows and putting them in their windows. It looked so lovely. It was such a wonderful show of support to our NHS and key workers and I really wanted to document this time in our lives.
I went out and photographed all the rainbows in the village that I could find. Pretty much all the windows had them in, some drawn by the children that lived in the houses, others printed out, one thanked “Daddy, our hero” and I confess to that one bringing a tear to my eye. Across the village people were showing their support.
Someone had the great idea of painting rocks and hiding them for the children who were going for a daily walk to find. The project got bigger and bigger, with daily posts on the Fawkham Village Community Page on Facebook showing photos of the kids proudly holding the rocks they had found. Rainbows, foxes, butterflies, ladybirds, thank you messages – there was a painted stone for everything, and many of them reminded the finder on the back to post to Facebook using the hashtag #fawkhamrocks
At this point in the lockdown I went out to photograph the village, so we have a visual representation of how the village looks today – the village pub, the village signs, the fields, the bluebells woods – all of it trying to capture the sense of quiet, the stillness and the way the world looked at this time. Of course, it allowed me to join the fun and whilst walking the dogs (part of our allowed daily exercise, remember I’m not a rule breaker!) I could photograph the village and take part in the #fawkhamrocks game and find, photograph and re-hide rocks myself.
On a Thursday we clapped for carers on our doorsteps – and I photographed that too. I didn’t want to miss a single part of this crazy time – an unprecedented time, a time that I hope never repeats itself. A time I want everyone to remember.
So, I had photographed the village, the people that live here, the rocks and the rainbows. But this didn’t seem enough – so I put together a short video of my images and shared it on our Facebook page, and everyone loved it. It is kind of my gift, to the village that I love, where both my home and my business is. For the children, little Joshua, Scarlett, Harry, Oakley & Oscar, for Freddie and for Mya and all the children that live here, as a time capsule to look back on when this is long forgotten. To know where they lived and how they looked, to share stories of this time with their children and their grandchildren.
We are not out the other side yet. I write this on May 8th – VE Day. A day when a village party had been planned, but cannot take place. So today I will be out there again, with my camera documenting the neighbours I can now call friends as we take part in a national toast together at 4pm. The Higgotts have created a playlist of music from the 1940’s and we will all stand together yet two meters apart. Special VE rocks have been painted and hidden for the kids to go out and find and post to our Facebook group again.
So here is my take on it all – as much as I wish life was normal, as much as I am desperate to just be with my mum, my family and my friends, as much as I am not sure what will happen financially, as I am one of the self employed who didn’t qualify for government help, as much as I worry about everyone I love being safe and well, I am grateful too. I am grateful the world stood still for a time. I am grateful that I now have neighbours I can call friends that I may not have known until I picked up my camera and walked around our little village of Fawkham to take photos. I am grateful that my family have all abided the rules and we have all stayed safe. I am grateful I live in this beautiful village. I am massively grateful I convinced my amazing husband (who despite being together 24/7 for nearly two months now I still love and adore) to build me a garden bar out of old pallets, but most of all…….most of all I am eternally grateful that he has FINALLY had the time to paint the downstairs bathroom……….
STAY AT HOME
WASH YOUR HANDS
PROTECT OUR NHS
Also featured on Kent Online, see the article here KENT ONLINE