.A project documenting a hundred of London’s theatres and picture houses during the first Covid19 lockdown. Shown here is a selection.
The originals pictures are 5000+px. This page displays images at 600px wide.
Click any image for a slightly larger view.
Contact info and profile are below.
About this project
I’m a media artist that’s dabbled in many areas – a long time ago I invented projection mapping. My big thing is light.
Mid March 2020 I was finishing a major exhibition at the OXO Tower. I was also keeping an anxious eye on the news. It seemed a plague was coming – a real full-bloodied lethal plague!
Our audiences slowly dwindled, my show finished, and the day after that I got initial Covid symptoms. Two days later the country went into the first lockdown.
A horrible month of illness later I felt wobbly, but fit enough to get on a bike. I cycled into central London.
Standing virtually alone on Waterloo Bridge with no traffic on the road, no boats on the river and no planes above was… breathtaking. The solitude was at once bizarre, unsettling, and gorgeously beautiful.
From the bridge I could see the National Theatre where I had worked during an important chunk of my life. It now sat empty, deserted, forlorn.
Zig-zagging down an empty Strand I revelled in the quiet and safety of empty roads. There were a couple of optimistic taxi drivers and a security guard out for a smoke, while completely empty buses patrolled the streets. Most of the homeless had been temporarily packed away, though as always a few desolate-looking souls had slipped through the net. The police kept a watchful eye on it all.
Soho was vacant. It was like someone had pulled the plug during the night, while everyone was cosily tucked up in bed, and in the morning the sun rose on this surreal frozen landscape.
Hundreds of lanterns continued to hang celebrating the Chinese new year (and would keep doing so for months). Cinemas promoted A Silent Place II and Parasite as if they were set-dressing from a disaster movie offering a sly commentary, while theatres boldly advertised shows put to bed weeks before. I had sat immersed in the dark in most of these places, and had worked in many of them too. I thought how a show, a theatre, an audience are living things in intimate collusion. Together they breath life – the sum of the parts etc. The notion occured to me that I had stepped into some outlandish and fantastically huge wake, and was now there paying my respects to their glorious but sad and empty remains. Everybody would get their turn to do this, one by one. Today it was mine.
The streets would of course fill with people again. Normality would one day return. But would all these shows? Obviously some wouldn’t. Would even the theatres themselves survive..? Some had already been on a financial knife edge.
I needed to return and document this. Lone photographers were taking their post-apocalypse snaps, but was anyone recording the theatres and cinemas?
Back home I made a list. Using Google Earth I got the best time to catch the light, and mapped out several day-long routes hopping from one venue to the next. So: 7.30am The Donmar; 8am The Royal Opera House; 8.30am Trafalgar Studios; and so on. This was going to take a while – I had more than a hundred to cover!
So over the next few weeks I would spend a day cycling across town taking photos, followed by several days of post-Covid exhaustion (I’m in that scary ‘long haul’ category).
It was certainly a mixed bag. Some venues were impossible to get to (like the Barbican Theatre buried inside the shuttered Barbican Centre), some were just plain dull, but many were visually stunning, especially the huge Victorian edifices like Her Majesty’s Theatre on The Haymarket. Doing the ‘post’ on these has been a real pleasure.
I’ll be updating this.
Right now I’m scouting opportunities for publication.
A magazine feature would be ideal.
Single prints are available.
Get in touch.
p.s. Please don’t share this page on social media. Cheers!