Beauty in Lockdown
Here is a photo I took a couple of weeks back. It’s the sun rising over Camberwell. I’m currently living in a “studio apartment” which is a euphemism for a bedsit. Due to a chain of unfortunate events I briefly became homeless in October and the only way to get a roof over my head was to rent this property through one of the local council schemes. Enough said about that.
I hate where I live. On my last visit to Dublin I went to the tenement museum and where I live is the modern equivalent. In normal circumstances I try to only sleep here as it’s so small and my neighbours play loud music and often pollute the stairways with their dope smoke. So you see lockdown is extremely trying being confined to a living space about 3 x 2.5m that is a kitchen and bedroom.
I do not have a outside space but I do look out on other people's gardens. This window has been a godsend. One of the things I have been doing to keep myself in a positive mindset has being going to bed early and getting up early. I have been lucky to catch the sunrise on a few occasions but failing that the morning sky is beautiful. The sun rising has been my steadfast emblem of hope that we will get through this.
Also I think it’s probably worth mentioning that my mother died suddenly when I was 23. We had the extreme experience of watching her die when they took her off a ventilator. Directly after she passed away it became dawn and the sky lit up with subtle tones of purples and pinks, dissolving the dark night sky with light. Ever since then, if I’m low and want to connect with my mother's love I know she will always be waiting at dawn to embrace me with her love.
Like you said in your email, sometimes clichés capture ideas perfectly - so I think of the one “it’s always darkest just before dawn” - or the one I love from Buddhism is “Winter always turns to Spring”.
Every good wish,
Beauty seems difficult to capture with any creative medium since the experience has usually been a set of events / imagined events with an element of surprise. The last time I was definitely moved was when a teacher burst into my class, stopped what was going on and publicly addressed a bullying incident. He thanked the bullying victim who had been doing some fundraising for the school that day, and suddenly the whole class decided at that moment to applaud this boy.
An event like this doesn't happen often, where I have had strongly stirred emotions (admiration, pity), being able to imagine something outside the event (the bullying), ideas (unsung heroes, justice), body sensations (I felt heavy chest, 'heart in mouth') - all at the same time. In hindsight, surprise seems an important ingredient of Beauty. Events are slightly easier than images, but I can still only really propose something to someone else as beautiful if it's worded a certain way.
There's something that I certainly could find beautiful about the early morning. I really got what Frank said because I appreciate the start of the day so much. The coloured light breaking through the sky, especially when it's sometimes orange in the Winter. And there's the pleasant sensation of having a clear mental state and a clean gut from fasting.
My picture doesn't seem like an image of beauty though, perhaps a surprise element is missing and I also can't connect the picture to imagined events very well.
Best wishes and missing our chats from last year,
I do not yet have a beautifully curated image to show you, but a candid moment. What I am considering beauty at the moment is very rooted in the idea of 'noticing'. I truly believe that the idea of beauty can be divided into groupings. Aesthetics, feeling, and belonging. My image is not aesthetically perfect, it would not necessarily appear beautiful or evoke beauty to anyone else, but to me, it is the definition of beauty in my lock-down world. The care and attention that my partner is giving our cat and I, as we are both unwell, is all the beauty I need. So, having a moment where there is peace and a sense of calm, for him to take a moment for himself - is beautiful.
I hope you are well,
This is an aquilegia. It’s growing in the corner of our garden where we put stuff we don’t need any more. It’s been two months since the dump closed and this corner is home to a growing collection of things that should be there instead of here. Twisted metal poles. A broken weedkiller dispenser. Empty bags of manure. A swing bin that no longer swings. It’s like the worst ever conveyor belt on The Generation Game.
Meanwhile the aquilegia just gets on with growing. Stems like tiny skyscrapers. Petals like little Rothkos. It’s not bothered that it’s in the crappiest part of the garden. It’s too busy getting on with living, knowing its beauty is short-lived.
Like the trees in Philip Larkin’s poem:
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Here, there is beauty in the contrast: between the focus and the blur; the purple and the green; the flower and the bee.
And there is beauty in the opposition: between the movement and the stillness; the ephemeral and the eternal; the natural and the technical.
And there is beauty in our human perception of a blooming, buzzing confusion, which turns a fuzz of noumena into a communal phenomenon.
The image I have chosen has only a tenuous connection with lockdown and, arguably, an even more tenuous connection with beauty; although taking inspiration from the often quoted “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, I was the beholder, it was my eye, so I am sticking to the suggestion that it is beautiful. It is concerned with the mundane and the ordinary; things that we have got rather used to during this weird time, things that seem to have taken on new levels of importance in our lives.
I find it tricky to state exactly why I find it beautiful, other than I just really like the way that the focus, and lack of it, creates weird wispy shapes, causes areas to blend into each other and transforms the already muted colours into something abstract and atmospheric.
At the risk of getting a little carried away and high- brow I think, for me, it is really about the process of photography itself and the ability of the camera to transform something that is mundane and ordinary into an image that is not. It is about the fact that I cannot see this image in reality with my eye naturally like this. I can't see out of focus like this (even with my ageing eyes), and the light and shade didn't look much like that in real life. There is no way that my eye will let me study the crisp little details that suddenly pop out of areas of softness and lines that gradually move in and out of sharpness. My eye can’t do that because it is constantly changing focus and aperture to allow me to see ‘everything’ – but I can't see this image.
That is, for me, both the appeal and challenge of photography. We are surrounded by beautiful things and scenes that change when you point a camera at them and they transform into two dimensional representations that are not as interesting as they look for real. I like photography when it does the opposite and it shows you things that you don’t see in reality.
As for the subject of the picture, in case it is not obvious, it is a white plastic shopping bag. The ordinary, mundane kind of bag that signalled damage to our environment not so long ago. It is, of course, still damaging when overused and discarded but currently has taken on a new significance when filled up with essential items and left on the doorsteps of the elderly and the isolated. The people in our street have come together during this time and we have a weekly street collection of food and essential items that go to a local food bank. Every Thursday lunchtime there has been a collection of ordinary plastic shopping bags and cardboard boxes in a front garden before it gets delivered.
The beauty of the ordinary in lockdown.
I have been thinking about the idea of beauty during lockdown and have honestly been finding it difficult to find much beauty in the world right now.
One beautiful thing I saw recently was this photograph of an old abandoned tyre, and I felt like it encompassed the idea of the one silver lining of this epidemic. Perhaps it seems a bit clichéd, and I’m not sure if others would find this beautiful, but for me the beauty comes from the idea of nature reclaiming our world.
While we have all been staying inside, plants and animals have continued to thrive, pollution has reduced as more and more people avoid travel and the air feels clearer than ever before here in London. This image reminds me of growth, of Spring, of the natural order of things. It makes me think about going back to basics, appreciating the simple things like walking in nature.
In these times, this picture made me reflect on the damage we have been doing to our world, and how with a change in human behaviour we can allow nature to heal. Here’s hoping we can continue to engage in more environmentally friendly activities when lockdown is over.
Hope you and your family are keeping well.
Images of beauty! Emme Boo Emmington
She is a beautiful peaceful dog, despite six years of hellish existence.
She has helped with my anxiety during this time and other difficult times this year.
She had to have a toe amputated at the start of lockdown, as she broke it. Her patience with the strange and solitary vet visits, and a night all alone in the surgery because of Covid was heartbreaking.
I could think about this for the rest of the month, but it would always be a photo of Emme!
It's me in the corner of this image, not that this is the beautiful part. My girlfriend and I had just turned off the lights to go to bed, one evening at the height of lockdown when we weren't to leave the house save singly for an hour's exercise a day. We have a table lamp in the far corner from the door, so it's fairly often that one of us is sitting in the dark before we leave the room entirely.
This time was after yet another long, fairly dull evening on the sofa. I had my face in the news via my phone at lights out, and the glow of the little device coupled with the crepuscular late spring evening mingled with lamplight filtering through the window. Flashing shadows on the wall made for a liminal moment between seasons, light and dark, waking and sleeping, trepidation and memories of different days.
This is a chilli plant 🌶
Our neighbours in the flat opposite laid out 12 chilli plants for other neighbours to have for free during lockdown.
I think I have found beauty in people’s community spirit over the last couple of months. This little chilli plant definitely brightened my mood.
My beauty in lockdown picture, taken on a recent lockdown walk.
This is the chair which cannot be sat on; I can walk outside, or sit inside, but cannot sit outside (and certainly not on such a palatial seat).
Who left this in such an elegant, central position? Did the chair request a shady spot?
Was the chair in the process of escaping from lockdown itself?
The next day, it had vanished.
Recognising the simple beauty in Nature has become an ever-present during Lockdown. As our world has become smaller, I have found solitude connecting with the simple things, like walking in the woods and gazing up at the trees.
Looking outwards rather than inwards has helped me to remain centred during these uncertain times. The mesmerising patterns of the leaves provide a moment of calmness as the brain switches off into a dream-like state. The patterns of melded green hues contrasted against the dark branches remind me of a textile design.
Other thoughts probe the mind. What If I zoom in and amplify the contours of the leaves - would this be an interesting painting composition?
Nature in its simplicity can provide us with inspiration, serotonin, and a sense of calm when all around us seems chaotic and unstable.
Beautiful Isleworth in lockdown
I have walked around my new home town much more during lockdown than I would in ordinary times. It turns out that it can be extraordinarily lovely.
Hope you like this one.
I hope you’re well. Yesterday in the early evening I happened to see five foxes in the playground near where I live. Four cubs and an adult. I tried to get a photo but by the time I could grab my phone three of the cubs had run off, so I only caught the adult and one cub below.
To me, it was a beautiful and rare sight to see a family of foxes, and the juxtaposition of wild foxes in a human-constructed playground made for a great example of natureculture. That they are taking advantage of the empty playground is also enjoyable. Plus the colour popping of fox-orange against tarmac-green.
I hope the five return - if they do I’ll try for a better image!
Through uncertain times many may struggle to find the beauty
That remains in a world flooded with news of negativity, illness and loss.
I packed a bag and headed for the Hampshire hills.
Nine weeks passed before I sailed the Irish Sea.
Quality time with family working on the farm.
Feeding baby calves and 6am alarms.
Fresh country air blowing through my hair.
Smell of fresh cut grass and finding time for laughs.
Although this is a pandemic I'm thankful for this time.
Spending time with loved ones and being on the farm.
Some of the babies I have delivered in Lockdown.
When viewing our new flat I appreciated the view out of the living room instantly. I saw the open grass area and trees and felt my peace of mind inflate as if it were my lungs.
Our previous flat on a high street was small, with a view of the Sainsbury’s roof which in heavy rain formed a pool of water that pigeons bathed in. The height that allowed us to see the horizon (and all too brief beautiful sunsets) was not enough to ease the feeling of cramp. I have only just thought that my lockdown could well have happened there.
Our decision to have a baby meant that wheels were set in motion almost two years ago that would mean our lockdown fate would be different. Jacob's first impact on our lives had occurred before he had. So we found ourselves here, the focus was different, no horizon; instead the flats opposite with people coming and going, home workout routines, smoking routines, cleaning routines, balcony gardening, parents and children eating alfresco - and of course the weekly show of appreciation for the NHS. All playing out in front of me as if watching an ant farm - and all far more interesting than the often grey and mostly static horizon
(with all too brief beautiful sunsets).
When you get bored of people-watching the expansive sky above provides its own list of occurrences, with one notable absence during lockdown: aeroplanes and their vapour trails. This gave the expansive swathe of sky at our disposal the chance to show off some of its other main characters; without the presence of the pesky gnat at 36,000 feet or the remnants of its engine ejectiles.
Up steps the forever timer, the consummate professional of the sky, entertainer to both children and adults, a flavour for everyone, the best beginning, middle and end no matter which way you look at it.
This rainbow framed my ant farm, it filled the space on the stage left by the aeroplanes, it embodies true representation of all colour in a way we currently struggle with and thoughtfully it is speaking to and projecting the voice of my old, and all too brief, but beautiful, sunset.
Sonny was six years in the making, and arrived five days into the COVID lockdown.
The three months spent in isolation with my family has been a unique experience, learning how to be a father, and watching my wife become a mother in our own private bubble.
We have been gifted with time (the most precious gift) and given the opportunity to become parents without support / judgement of our family and friends.
Our personal life, juxtaposed with the world events unfolding around us,
has been an interesting contrast to wrestle with...