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 an 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.
A pipe dripping from a plumbing malfunction, that of which caused a great, big puddle in the garage. Whilst a major inconvenience, the sound of the water dripping into the bucket was oddly rhythmic and soothing. Captured on my MiniDV camera.
My experience of beauty during Lockdown
Lockdown Spring brought with it this intense heat. It carried us between a veil of optimism and the unnerving discomfort of despair. The heat moved us to get outside, to walk and find shade under trees, or hide in the woods. We felt grateful to be near green open spaces and appreciated the smallest of joys.
This picture, taken in April is of my two daughters on our way across the Common one afternoon, heading towards the woods. Sunlight pours down onto and into them and I see beauty through their connection to one another. Through lockdown they’ve held on to each other, tightly, they’ve shared their sunshine and let it spark joy, they’ve found strength with each other and sadness when apart.
Connection is vital, it is life affirming, it strengthens the spirit and deepens the love. Inspired by the warmth of my children’s alliance I slowly begin to reconnect to what I am, who my friends are and start to make time for them. It is April but I hang on tightly to the hope that one day soon we will join together in the friendship that I have missed.
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...
Lockdown for me was about the time spent outside the house. With two kids and a dog the daily trip out was super important and mainly spent running in our local park. A few times we walked further afield however, and this photo was taken then.
Venturing closer to central London actually meant discovering quieter streets, and I loved the beauty in a quiet city. I chose this image to send to you because the shapes of the South Bank buildings appear more imposing when they are not obscured by the usual traffic and people.
While walking my dog in Crane Park, I noticed a strikingly colourful line of rocks that together make up the “Crane Walk Snake.” The sign next to it encourages people to “Pick a rock, take it home, make it special, bring it back, and make snake grow!” I thought it was wonderful how so many people could join in on this seemingly childish task, and create something that really shows the personalities of people of all ages from different walks of life who, in other circumstances, may not cross paths.
Some of my favourite rocks that I’ve seen have either got silly faces painted on them, some decorated with feathers or glitter, while the others have slogans which refer to several social groups or movements, such as Black Lives Matter, Pride month, and with some praising the NHS and including positive words such as “Hope” and “Love.”
I think that this “rock snake” creates something that people may not notice at first, but is in fact a fantastic work of art which includes so many people going through similar experiences during this really weird time. It’s great to experience something that connects so many people in ways which we would otherwise find silly and not give a second thought. I think it just shows how important it is for us to think about the small forms of beauty, kindness and unity that we see everyday, and really begin to cherish them.
This image of a lonely lamppost lighting the street by my house is now evidence of hope and beauty.
Though you may think you're alone like the lamppost, you are not. Though may you think you do not help, you do. Though you may think you are a waste of energy, you are not.
It's funny how a few months ago I would have walked past this and not had a second thought. Now, for whatever reason, a lamppost on the corner of my street is a symbol of hope and beauty.
I returned to the Isle of Man a week before the borders closed, having left with every intention of not returning, to travel the world and eventually settle elsewhere. When the pandemic struck, I began contemplating my own mortality and place in this world. Not long after, I decided to head home.
Lockdown on the Isle of Man has been a somewhat idyllic experience. Living on a farm in the remote hills I was able to "unlawfully” spend all hours of the day outside, working on the farm, planting vegetables, reading and writing. I had never felt such overwhelming gratitude for my birthplace. It was the enforced isolation and ensuing solitude that rattled with my head on a daily basis. I hadn’t seen any of my friends since the year before and living with my uncle offered little in conversation or comfort. I may as well have been living alone.
days have merged,
and my mind plays tricks,
seeing phantom figures,
months without touch,
my muscles begin to wane,
I miss the scent of another,
now I just smell the flowers,
but without rain we are stagnant,
I quickly began to realise how different our experience of lockdown was in comparison to that being portrayed in the media, whereby neighbours danced together in the streets, applauded the NHS, and communities came together. I sought to document and disclose our reality of the pandemic: hard work, stillness, natural beauty, a lockdown where it’s not all Netflix and home workouts.
I began documenting my own lockdown life under the title Manksland, photographing the day-to-day of our modest farm. In this image my uncle stands in a moment of contemplation and rest, before returning to fixing fences beneath the unrelenting sun.
As the summer days got longer, so did the hours of working. We’d return home each night with sunburnt faces and varying levels of dehydration. Some days I hated it, some days I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else. There’s a certain ambivalence to be felt regarding this pandemic. For me it engendered a newfound love for the Isle of Man, and reinstated a passion for self-expression through art and writing.
For me, one of my most beautiful experiences in lockdown has been realigning to the pace of nature, enabling me to see things that might normally pass me by.
In attempt to share this with you, here is a poem reflecting on the image I captured of a ladybird exploring my seedling trays.
I hope you enjoy!
My picture of Beauty is this fledgling Robin.
Whilst I was on furlough I had a lot of time on my hands, so I gave my jungle of a garden a bit of a trim and tidy and stumbled across a Robins' nest.
I started a little story about them on social media and grew quite an attraction. Friends looked forward to updates as the Robins grew and mum and dad were feeding them. Both parents were not phased by me and as I was digging around the garden, they would fly in to catch any dug up worms, or their favourites: centipedes.
It was a joy and beautiful to watch nature in action; and my Robin followers really looked forward to the updates, as many of them where in lockdown with no outside space. This picture is the day they flew the nest. Sad as it was, I was glad I was a helping hand in feeding them and watching them grow. I was amazed he could fly; he was quite a plump thing!
A friend said that Robins return to the same garden each year to breed; so with a little luck, I can continue the Robins' tale next year.
I hope you enjoy my story of beauty as much my friends did.
ONLY IN THE STILL
What if being forced to be still was the only way to see,
to see that we are all moving so very fast,
such that the journey has been lost to the idea of the destination?
But what if you could never reach that destination,
what if the landscape were to change, long before you could get there?
And what if, the price you paid to reach it was too high,
set to leave you jaded and disillusioned by a reality that never lived up
to the promise of,
along with all you sacrificed to get there?
What if being forced to be still was the only way to see,
to re-evaluate, to think, to question and to understand,
to sit with, to wrestle, to dance with and to come to terms with our choices,
in order to fully become one with ourselves?
For while we are all moving so very fast,
do we lose sight of the journey, it’s lessons,
and the ever-changing landscape that is ourselves.
The sunrises that are our triumphs, balanced with the setting of,
as we learn to navigate the grief of our loses.
In the blur, are these gifts lost to the pages of inconvenience.
Yet what if being forced to be still was the only way to see,
that all we truly have in this life is the journey itself,
and that until now… we have been missing it?
Sachelle Dior Linton
I’ve been on furlough from work and attempt to get out of the house at least once a day to stretch my legs! I tend to circle similar routes around Burgess Park and the surrounding area.
A couple of months back I noticed this little makeshift library crop up near my flat in Peckham. My first thought: was this always here? Quite honestly, it’s probably not something I would have noticed had I not had all this time on my hands.
I took a book, “The secret life of money” by Daniel Davies and Tess Read (maybe with this new knowledge I’ll be the only one to make it out of the recession with some cash intact?) I then snapped this pic, and went about my day.
The next day on my walk I popped “This is going to hurt” by Adam Kay back on the shelf. It was a nice feeling. I’m not sure who made this, but thank you! You made me feel part of a local community I hadn’t even properly explored until now!
Port Gavern- North Cornwall.
Here is a photo taken on one of my many cycle rides. I was feeling extremely grateful during lockdown, being able to travel home and spend my newly furloughed time enjoying where I was brought up. It was hard to choose just one of the many photos I had taken but I particularly like the colours and textures in this.
After looking back at all my photos I’m unsure why I rushed back to London and left beautiful North Cornwall behind!
We found this little nest lying, lonely on the floor.
It had fallen, perfectly formed, from the Elderberry tree which overhangs into our garden. The vibration from the saw as the neighbours pruned the tree must have shaken it loose.
Nile kept the nest and planted flowers all around. She hoped the birds would come back home.
I've wanted to send this photograph for a few weeks now:
It is a photograph that represents the huge changes I, along with everyone else, have been through this year. At the beginning of lockdown, I had moved back home to Somerset to be with my parents and two siblings.
I really needed some work after losing all my freelance income overnight, and was able to find work at a local small farm, run by people we'd known for years. It was hard graft, planting seeds of every vegetable and herb imaginable, nurturing them on a heated sand bench, watering copiously, and then working on other areas of the farm such as fence building and juice labelling.
In truth, it was not an idyllic time. I was deeply upset at the effects of the pandemic and was struggling to create my own artwork or retain any other sense of psychological freedom.
But I was so excited when these cucumber seeds sprang up over a very hot April weekend - they are notoriously difficult to grow, and we had a fully germinated tray! I took photographs in delight, before Tom and I went back to potting up other seedlings, playing rude Australian comedy on a tinny speaker in the background.
See you soon,
My 100 Days of Lockdown
I struggle with this idea of the word of ‘beauty’ - especially when it comes to my own work, but found this image really resonated with my experience of being 100 days in lockdown.
Each day I tried to create a small piece of work filled with colour and happiness and found this task really helped me through this difficult time, mentally and physically. Some doodles were colourful and fun, some quite dark, some graphic and structured, some more freeing and less restricting. Looking back now it probably depended on my mood of the day!
We have all dealt with this pandemic in many different ways. I found the feeling of being creative again after a long time of 'not having time’ because of everyday life commitments - was the ‘beauty’ within my lockdown experience, the beauty of time and art being therapeutic, enjoyable and my liberator in a time of a global pandemic.
I love the sky - for me, it has always been (along with the sea) a place of pure beauty. This is the view from my bedroom window, when I took this photo it made me think of the different experiences everyone was having throughout lockdown. For some it has been a hard time, dealing with mental health issues (sometimes alone), losing family members and/or jobs, and for others it has been a time for reflection, self care and a chance to focus on hobbies. Two very different experiences – Two very different weathers. All under the same sky.
It’s the beautiful sky again! Although on my short walks during lockdown I didn’t see many, if any people, this laundry blowing in the wind was a friendly reminder that people’s day to day lives were still happening. I liked the way the legs of the jeans filled with air - it made it look like the people were missing out of them.
I took this photo for my love of geometry and the beauty I find within it.
I looked at all the windows and pondered..
It was a weird feeling the one I experienced over the Spring months, when the lock-down was going on. Beyond the iron grating of my window, the city seemed almost as if it had suddenly gone quiet, motionless, an atmosphere similar to that one captured by Giorgio De Chirico in the painting Mystery and Melancholy of a street (1914).
Lacking input from the outer world, just through my imagination I have been able to recall the dynamism and vibrancy that the lock-down swept away
If I was writing a novel I’d describe the last six months as having been lived in a snow globe. Our entire lives have been shaken and every time you think life has settled, along comes another shake and once the snow stops falling everything looks different again.
I feel robbed of moments I couldn’t have with family and friends, places I couldn’t go to and opportunities I missed. It has been difficult and lonely at times but I have enjoyed spending so much time with my partner and our cats in our new home and now it’s easing I feel so lucky to be able to appreciate every moment and everyone in our lives.
This photo is from the first time I saw my nephew, my favourite little person, after four very long months. He was completely overwhelmed with excitement at seeing his family again but it was nothing compared to how happy we were to see him.
I took this photograph whilst visiting my parents for the first time after lockdown. I grew up with this window but hadn’t really seen it in the same way before.
It reminded me of an eye looking out at the world, maybe because windows had become our eyes on the world for so many months.
Here are my photos of the strange spring/summer we just had.
I collected these photos over the course of a few months over lockdown and the new strange adjustment of life living the new normal which is still feeling alien even now.