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Looking Out from Within: Life in Lockdown

Julia Fullerton-Batten was planning a photo shoot with a large group of people: assistants, stylists, hair and make-up team, prop stylists and set designers. Then suddenly, everything stopped. Her assignments were cancelled. She began taking portraits in her local area. 

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Julia Fullerton-Batten's project began when she decided to document how most of us are living today. She chose to capture people in their lockdown isolation, effectively imprisoned behind the windows of their homes looking out onto a different world. She advertised the idea via social media and the local press in her home area of West London and the response was enormous. 

For the past few weeks, every three days or so, Julia has photographed people in self-isolation at home. People have participated enthusiastically. "I feel I am giving them something to look forward to and break the monotony of their current existence.

"No physical contact is made. They stand at their windows and we communicate with hand signals or by phone. Everything is discussed prior to the shoot; the type of masks and wardrobe that can be anything from nightgowns to funky or formal dress worn especially for the photoshoot. My 12-year-old son Finn helps me carry the lighting. We set it up and, a few poses, later the shoot is over."

As the country slowly eases out of lockdown, Julia gives us a little insight into what people have missed the most and an idea of what they might start to look forward to in the future.

Chloe, Lockdown Day 19

“I work as a performer and designer, so the majority of my work happens in the evenings. For the first time in a long time, my evenings are my own again. I lost two months worth of dance work, as well as additional freelance teaching overnight. We’re incredibly lucky that there are petitions to help for self-employed and fundraisers to help theatres re-open post June 2020. It gives us hope that our careers will continue post-pandemic.

"In the meantime, the only thing we can do is to create at home, keep in touch with our loved ones and rebalance ourselves. It’s a strange time, because it feels a lot like we are living in both the past and the future. There’s a real retro feeling to the experience, almost as though we’ve been transported back in time to the Eighties. I think this stems from taking time out of the sheer speed of the 21st century to call up our family and friends, and really listening."

Malaika, Lockdown Day 18

“I haven’t been able to see my friends and some of my family. For example, over the Easter holiday, my family and I were supposed to go to Uganda in Africa to see family, but sadly the flight was cancelled. My cousin from France was supposed to come to London for his internship, but that has been postponed.

"I think our situation is okay because we have a garden to play in and get fresh air. We don’t need to go out of the house, unless for food and supplies. From next week, I will be starting online classes and online music lessons, so that our teachers can check in with us.”

Serena and Chloe, Lockdown Day 16

“My main priority is keeping myself and everyone around me safe. Staying indoors is a small sacrifice to make for the safety of others, so my main aim is to find new ways of using this time positively and taking care of my mental health.”

Karen, Lockdown Day 24

“I live with my adult daughter and her dog and our domestic routines have not changed as much as that of others because my daughter continues to work outside the home. However, like everybody, we have to learn to deal with the increased uncertainty of our future and accept the lack of control we have over our lives. We miss most the casual tactility and fun of going out and meeting family and friends.

"Living with this new virus requires us to come up with a new list of priorities, appreciate the basics, reduce the speed of chasing goals and to learn to assess activities more by their intrinsic value and not so much by their financial reward. I spend a lot of my time trying to follow the scientific research into Covid-19 to learn how life with the virus could shape our future, but am frustrated to find little global approach to the pandemic and few preliminary findings that help on a practical level.

"Before Covid-19 I would worry about my uncertain future, now everyone has joined me and I don’t feel so alone, because we’re are all in it together.”

Jamal, Lockdown Day 22

I am Jamal, I am Autistic, I live with my mum and my cat Romeo, I cannot go to Sports Club or Mencap, I miss my carers Aaron and Lolo. I might see them in May, or maybe June, I’m not sure.”

Hannah and Annabella, Lockdown Day 27

“My mother is indescribably sad: she has lost her husband, yet she can’t even have a cup of tea with her neighbours. We cannot be together to console her, and probate cannot start, so she’s in complete limbo.

"My 95-year-old grandma was still shopping until Easter, thinking she was invincible because she lives in the countryside. That was tough for my mother to handle.”

Bethan, Lockdown Day 43

"The biggest impact that Covid-19 has had on my life is that I will be going into work a lot earlier than expected. I am in my final year of medical school and sat my final exams in January, expecting to graduate in July. Instead, my year have been graduated early. The biggest lesson I will take away from this pandemic is that going out and seeing my friends is what makes me happy. In the future, I will not be turning down a beer garden opportunity ever again!

"It has been strange not being able to see my boyfriend, who is working as a doctor in Oxford. I can’t imagine what quarantine would be like before mobile phones and the internet — I think that has been a saving grace for so many. Overall, living through this pandemic has made me recognise how often I take for granted things which others are struggling without, especially at the moment.

"l am so privileged to have things such as my health, job security, family and access to a garden. I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes."

Kevin McNally and Phyllis Logan, Lockdown Day 35

"Like most people Covid-19 has impacted our lives but we remember to be grateful that unlike many we have space here in our house which we share with our 23-year-old son David. We can also do some voice work from a little recording set up I put in the study.

"I guess the biggest take away from all this is how important human contact is and when it’s restricted it really changes the quality of one’s day-to-day life."

Sophie Ellix-Bextor and Richard Jones, Lockdown Day 53

"Turns out Richard and I didn’t choose very practical day jobs when there’s a lockdown and you’re not allowed near other people. I miss gigs and at the moment have no work in sight for 2020. Richard and I are in lockdown with our five kids and it’s as peaceful as you’d imagine. We also have our aupair here who ended up stranded after she got unwell and the flights were cancelled. Jelena has been amazing, but I’m very conscious of giving her her own space and a break from us.

"There’s no let-up for the rest of us. It’s not been easy and there’ve been many tears and tantrums, but it’s not been terrible either. Same for most families I’d imagine. I think what I miss most is the usually casual nature of my life. Watching my kids running about outside without worrying they are too close to others, choosing which days I’m free to grab a coffee with someone, making a plan for a date night.

"I miss not having to second guess everything and I miss not worrying I’ve stood too close to my mum when I’ve waved at her from the path outside her front door. Our current situation has been a bit barking. The last two and a half months have been a heady mix of domesticity and discos. We’ve broadcast a little disco party from our home every Friday at 6.30 and even though it’s the maddest thing I’ve ever done (kids and wires everywhere), it’s also kept Richard and I sane. He focuses on the technical side and does the filming and sound while I put on my sequins and sing. The kids dance and it gives us all a lift. It’s been special and has made the heaviness of the world’s reality a little easier to bear."

Penelope, Lockdown Day 51

“It can be a challenge not to be engulfed by fear but instead to look ahead in hope for the future. I try to limit the amount of news, yet keep informed and paradoxically, have connected more with others and deepened relationships even though I live alone. I am very grateful to live on the river where I do, surrounded by nature, wonderful neighbours and being more still, less rushing about, has woken me up to the beauty of what is right here. It’s definitely a lesson how nothing can be taken for granted and how precious life is.

"Like for us all, its tough not seeing those you love but so many ways to connect in the meantime, thank you technology! I’m an actress, writer and freelance in the corporate sector so all are impacted, but I have found many opportunities to work on various projects and keep connected with my employers and fantastic agent."

Gerry Brakus is Creative Editor of the New Statesman and also writes on photography.