Three people standing 2 metres apart with supermarket trollies
Michaela Strivens: Upside down world, Wallington, London Suburbs
Michaela Strivens: Upside down world, Wallington, London Suburbs

Picturing Lockdown Collection: 200 New Images Revealed After Exceptional Response to Historic England’s Public Call Out

Today (2 June), Historic England reveals 200 new images which have been added to the Historic England Archive as the Picturing Lockdown Collection, now freely accessible online.

View the Picturing Lockdown Collection

This follows a week-long call out where the public were asked to share images that document their experience of seven days in “lockdown” from 29 April – 5 May, which resulted in nearly 3,000 submissions from across England.

Due to the huge interest in the project, Historic England has doubled the size of the Collection. The final Collection of 200 images consists of of 100 public submissions, alongside over 50 newly commissioned works by ten contemporary artists, and the remainder from Historic England’s photographers.

Public submissions

Artist submissions

Historic England’s photographers

The call-out was the first time the public have been asked to capture photographs for the Archive since the Second World War. It aimed to spark conversations about identity and has now created a unique and reflective record of a week across the nation, during this extraordinary moment in history.

These unique responses have formed a visual record in Historic England’s Archive, the nation’s archive for records of England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history, which will help us shape what we remember about this time.

An exceptional public response

The public call out received an overwhelming reception from across England, with 2984 submissions from across the country received over the course of seven days. Most responses were received from the South East (18%) and South West (14%), with strong representation also coming from Central London (12%), Suburban London (12%) and the East of England (12%), followed by North West (9%), Yorkshire (6%), the North East (5%), East Midlands (5%) and West Midlands (5%).

Common themes in the public’s submissions give a fascinating insight into people’s experiences in this unprecedented time. This include images of healthcare workers and rainbows (now synonymous with supporting the NHS), as well as leisure pursuits including baking, gardening, board games and zoom quizzes. The concept of emptiness featured strongly in submissions, especially through empty high streets, roads, public transport and skies, while the frustrations and loneliness of social distancing also came across strongly.

Images of home-made haircuts and street art sit alongside people’s pets, children and working from home. The natural world appears frequently with images of gardens, parks and wildlife in bloom during the spring months, suggesting how nature has offered us solace and a promise of hope.

Artists’ responses

Alongside the public call out, ten contemporary artists from across England were also asked to produce images documenting lockdown during the seven days. Each artist has contributed at least five images to the final Collection.

The resulting images range from evocations of specific urban landscapes offered by Chloe Dewe Mathews (South East), Scottee (East of England) and Polly Braden (Central London), to portraits of communities and individuals by Tristan Poyser (North West), Anand Chhabra (West Midlands) and Coralie Datta (Yorkshire), the individual experiences of Aidan Moesby (North East) and Bella Milroy (East Midlands) and a focus on nature and space offered by Roy Mehta (London Suburbs) and Malaika Kegode (South West).

The ten artists were each asked to select their favourite public submission from their region.

London-based Roy Mehta chose Shuvaseesh Das’ Clap For NHS London noting that the image “encapsulates the reality of the ‘lockdown’ for so many people…The framing enables us to see the couple in context and the clapping on the balcony can only refer to the current support for the NHS.”

West Midlands-based artist Anand Chhabra chose Telly Vision’s submission Nice two metre, two metre nice. He describes that “it’s great because the humour of the image uplifts you. It also speaks of the Brummie humour as well in tough times.”

The fascinating response to our Picturing Lockdown call-out sheds light on our collective and individual experiences of lockdown and provide a snapshot into this unusual time that will be accessible for future generations to see and learn from. Our thanks go out to all who submitted their work, to our 10 contemporary artists, and to our photography team who have produced an inspiring range of images.
Claudia Kenyatta, Director of Regions Historic England