Tom Benjamin captures the empty local high streets and carparks during lockdown.
With things the way they are, it has affected everything about our lives. It dictated the places you could go, the things you could do, and took away many of the things that people enjoyed. We were forced to adapt, and in order to continue with things we loved we had to find new ways to do them.
For photographers, we had to get creative – more than usual. Many had begun to photograph around the house, revisit old photos and bring a new life to them, and even use FaceTime to take portraits. I, like many others, used my daily exercise to take photos and being limited to my local area wasn’t a problem.
I had recently been using my camera to discover my local area (more on that soon!) and inspired by the news, I had an idea for a theme. With a few locations in mind I gradually added them into my daily route and over the next few weeks managed to visit them all.
I wanted to try and capture the emptiness that we don’t see everyday. With a shopping culture that is pretty much 24/7, or as close to it as it can be, we don’t see shops closed and car parks empty (see featured image, above). The impacts of a lockdown had huge repercussions, especially through the retail and hospitality industry.
When lockdown was introduced in the UK, there was speculation and discussion over what an ‘essential’ service was and some stores argued the right to stay open. Over time, some places were able to introduce social distancing procedures that allowed them to protect their employees and customers and began to reopen. Others weren’t able to even though at first they had tried.
One place that became important to the project was the old parchment makers in Havant. Since it was on a busy road as well as the high street it has been difficult to capture it with as little car and foot traffic as possible. Havant was once the location for a parchment makers known for its high quality white paper, the ground floor of the current building is now occupied by a Wetherspoon’s.
Each of these images represents a different aspect of how social distancing and lockdown has impacted various retail and hospitality businesses. Once normality returns, I believe it will happen quite quickly. It will be these images and others like them that remind us of what life in lockdown was like.
Each month I am creating a limited print, or in this case, a print series. These are usually shot on film and will be limited in number only available for that month. This months feature is my Essential Series.
A great project I have been following from another photographer is Matt Day’s Social Distancing book.
This article was originally published on Tom Benjamin’s website, Our Shadows Will Remain. You can buy Tom’s work, including his lockdown-inspired series Essential, here.
Images by Tom Benjamin.