Brighton photographer JJ Waller captures life in lockdown
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 May 2020
Brighton photographer JJ Waller has responded to the historic lockdown conditions in the UK by photographing people social distancing at home.
JJ Waller life in lockdown photography
Brighton Kemp Town’s Learmonth family prepare a tableau for JJ Waller to photograph every Sunday at 2pm. They have re-enacted Evel Knieval jumping buses, The Incredibles and scenes from Rocky amongst others over the weeks of lockdown.“It is one of our weekly highlights, preparing for this” said dad Oliver.
Henry and Eyanid are in lockdown at their unique tower home in Firle near Lewes. JJ has also been photographing lockdown in the quintessential Sussex village. “People tell me that the village is even more peaceful than usual,” JJ says.
Claire and her wife Kirsten have a wonderful window on the world from their home in the Bohemia district of St Leonards on Sea. "Apparently Bohemia Road was once one of the most exclusive shopping areas in Hastings but now there are very few shops still trading," says JJ.
Claudine and Ted are in lockdown at their home in Hastings. Musician Ted said: "We are lucky to have Alexandra Park, possibly the most majestic of all parks in Sussex, on our doorstep."
Ceramic Artist Susan Elliot poses with her family in the window of their home, a former public house. The Foresters Arms in St Leonards served its last pint in 1969
The Lumley family in Hanover, Brighton have been in lockdown for six weeks: Mum Ruth said: “That's longer than the usual school summer holidays. We have a walk once a day, go to the park or the sea once a week. Most of our food is delivered. The community here is the best I have experienced amongst all the places I have ever lived."
When photographed here Alan from Saltdean was preparing for his weekly Zoom broadcast of his hugely popular Lockdown Bingo programme. Alan appears on the front cover of JJ Waller’s Brighton Pride book and they met for this portrait by chance when a neighbour introduced them.
When lockdown began in the UK on 23 March photographer JJ Waller responded with an idea that enabled him to safely interact by photographing people in his home city of Brighton, looking out at the outside world through their windows and glass doors.
Very quickly via social media he received three invitations: the very first was from the mother of a young girl, Sadie, and her mother. “I took a picture of Sadie gazing inquisitively through the patterned glass of her front door, a picture that had a profound effect on me. I knew at that point the project could be a significant documentation of a unique period in our history,” he says.
Since then the work has taken on a life of its own. Each day JJ is inundated with invitations from people to photograph them. “The concept is very simple and people have easily grasped its importance and want to be part of it.”
Considerable social media engagement suggests the images are having a real emotional impact. “I am overwhelmed by the trust people are placing in me. So far I have photographed in excess of 40 families and individuals,” says JJ.
Although he is not with people for a very long time, many people have shared their experiences with him. “Some narratives are very harrowing. Yesterday I met a women who as a ten-year-old had witnessed the streets of Bophal in India the morning after the chemical gas disaster of 1984.” But the vast majority of people he has met, including her, are stoically optimistic for a new future.
JJ doesn’t yet know where this work is leading – a book, perhaps, or an exhibition. “It is hard to envisage the changes ahead and in particular for me at what point this period of documentation will finish. It is a journey we are all sharing and as with many journeys it isn’t always easy to know where it finishes. If it does become a book I hope it will very soon be a history book.”