2pm Lockdown started as a compilation of the every day documenting the subtle ebb and flow of family life yet ended up a barometer of our changing moods, fears and lunch choices.
Interview by Elizabeth Smith
Amit Lennon is a UK based photographer who is known for his intimate, distinctive and sensitive portraits.
He’s renowned for his signature and individual colour palette specific to each shoot, both enhancing the image and creating a specific ambience. Amit also has the rare ability to disarm even the most famous of sitters: his subjects always look at ease in front of his lens. Lennon works with many editorial publications, as well as charities and commercial clients but always weaves in time, to work on his personal projects.
Photography zine focusing on life during lockdown
Amit has recently published a beautiful zine called 2pm Lockdown an intriguing visual history documenting consecutive days at 2pm during the first lockdown. The photos are across both pages: one image on the left another on the right making it appear as a diptych.
The continuity of the outside – your house on the left contrasted with the more random mainly interior images produces an addictive read. Can you tell us a bit about this project?
Well, like many people most of my work came to a halt with the beginning of the pandemic and we were suddenly locked in our home together with our families or flatmates.
I decided to take a photo every day at 2pm, as that’s a time when normally there isn’t anyone in the house. I wanted to have a fixed perspective in one of the shots, to give the sense that nothing was changing and emphasize the dimensions of our cage. So, the front of the house is a boring, repetitive, weather picture and the partner image is something that was happening at that time.
It stemmed from boredom and obviously not having anything to photograph professionally, and was initially an intrusion into my family’s personal space. But as with many long-term projects I eventually won over the trust of my subjects and they either ignored me or took part by allowing me in.
This wasn’t a researched project, with lots of pre-planning but more an instinctive reaction to my situation. The discipline of photographing every day at the same time with the same limited subjects was a challenge that I enjoyed and using my iPhone rather than my DSLR, with controlled lighting, was also a nice break from my usual photography practice.
I ended the project on the last day of the first UK lockdown, the 3rd of July, having photographed continuously since the first day, the 23rd of March. Once it was complete, I ran through various edits choosing my favourite photo pairings and narrowed it down to about 20 significant days. But I felt it really didn’t convey the time or repetition of lockdown. So, I started again and included everything, exposing my own moods, frustrations and lack of creativity on some of the days.
Collating the photos into a zine really gave a sense of time and seasons passing, no repeated ‘boring front of house’ shot was ever the same. Documenting the subtle ebb and flow of family life – restricted to confinement and boredom – ended up being a nice barometer of our changing moods, fears and lunch choices.
Personal Work Journal features photography & photobooks from around the world.
The diptych form was also evident in your earlier work for the empathy museum’s From Where I’m Standing. Is this a direction you will continue?
Actually, the empathy museum project was after the lockdown project in terms of when it was shot. The diptychs started with some photos that I took of NHS doctors and paramedics at the beginning of the pandemic. Those diptychs were finalists in the AOP photography awards and one was also in Portrait of Britain. So, the idea of pairing images has actually run throughout the pandemic for me.
The Empathy Museum project was a set of portraits of significant figures in my local community and was connected to an audio interview, where the subject discussed an item that was significant to them during the pandemic. It was a way for them to elaborate or focus on what was important during that time. So, the diptych presentation was built in
And that actually came from another pandemic project, which was to do with the closure of a local community supermarket, Nour Cash and Carry, in Brixton. For the Nour project I asked people to talk about an item that they always buy at the shop and is hard to get anywhere else. I don’t know if I will continue to work with diptychs, but I do like the space and tension that is created between two related photos.
Combining photography and moving image
What’s next on the horizon in terms of both personal and professional projects
Your previous personal work also includes some short films, tell us a bit about them?
My film work is another personal project. I have made several short films with my partner Sarah King, which we have co–directed and she has written and I have shot. They are fairly varied, from near future sci-fi to poetry-based narratives.
Photography galleries and inspiration
Do you have a favourite gallery or art website?
I will probably have to say that the Photographers Gallery is my favourite, though it is a bit of a love/hate relationship. In terms of bringing photography into the mainstream of art, long before the Tate or most other galleries were showing it, tpg was the only place to see photography. They also sold – and still sell – photographic prints. Even if you don’t like the exhibition the bookshop is great for a browse and a survey of what’s going on.
I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts lately, and particularly like the Talkart one, there are also some good photography ones around.