Doorstep Diaries: Remembering last summer’s lockdown

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Presented alongside personal experiences of lockdown, Charlotte Ellis’ joyful portraits remind us of the camaraderie and patience that brightened the early months of the pandemic

At the beginning of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, like many freelance photographers, Charlotte Ellis found herself out of work. Having worked as a fashion photographer for five years, and a lighting assistant for five years before that, Ellis had always wanted to pursue a personal project, but could never afford the time. “I wanted to do something creative,” she says. 

As restrictions began to ease in the summer months, she began visiting friends at their doorsteps, asking them to conceptualise a colour palette or theme for a portrait. Some friends posed in matching accessories or outfits, while others dangled colourful jumpers and houseplants out of their windows, bathing in the bright light of the summer sun. “It was a really freeing moment,” Ellis reflects. “It was so nice to do something that had no commercial context.”

When Ellis shared the photographs on Instagram, more people asked to be involved. She photographed neighbours, grandparents, friends of friends, and pets; “I was cycling everywhere, from Enfield to East London to South London,” she says. When one participant offered to write about their personal experience, Ellis invited others to do the same. “People were really honest. They spoke about their mental health, about how they had lost their houses, or had to give up their dog because they couldn’t look after it anymore.”

What began as an intuitive, topographical approach to making images morphed into a portrait of a collective state of being and grieving. “What I thought was really beautiful about the project is that everyone had such a positive outlook for the future,” says Ellis. 

Looking back now, the images serve as a reminder, perhaps, of a more innocent time. A time when we became more attuned to the shifting seasons, closer with our local communities, and noticed the importance of loved ones we were unable to see. As the future remains uncertain, we can look back at these moments, and remember the camaraderie and patience that got us through it.

Jo © Charlotte Ellis.
JU © Charlotte Ellis.
Julia © Charlotte Ellis.
Zo © Charlotte Ellis.
Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.