a solo exhibition by John Chase
About the exhibition
Presented here is a selection of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and other people with whom I was connected, all photographed during May 2020.
I was furloughed in March 2020 and frustrated at not being able to take photos across a wider area. It then occurred to me that my likely subjects were effectively trapped in their homes all around me and probably desperate for some distraction from the growing tedium of being at home against their will. Like many people, I’d walked around on my daily exercise and often planned my route so that I passed the houses of friends, who came to the door to wave and have a chat. Always armed with a camera, I took a photo of one family and realised I had my project!
This idea seemed a good way of chronicling the pandemic but as soon as I took off around the streets it struck me that the significance of these photographs went beyond being a record of an historic event. It was also the first time that many of the households had been photographed as a family, and it was a rare instance where every family member was in the home. Although the subjects are often casually dressed, the photos are quite formal and I was delighted at how accommodating my subjects were, despite their stresses and strains, even the pets !
Knocking on the door at the loosely allotted time, I waited to see just who would assemble outside to pose. My photographic approach was set out at the start. I dispensed with my big cameras and restricted myself to a small, yet very capable little compact’. This was to aid portability, since I often covered quite a large distances, sometimes by bike, and the weather was often warm and sunny during lockdown.
As I worked through my list, taking more and more photos, I was made aware of people who might make interesting subjects for me to approach, so it was a good way of not only meeting new people but also getting to know many. I chose my subject matter based on those I knew who were good friends, those who had contributed to my enjoyment of where
I lived through their involvement in cultural activities and those who I just thought would make interesting photos.
After a few weeks lockdown was eased, some returned to work, or were able to travel further out and meet others and the moment has passed into history - an incredible lurch in the passage of time where everything stopped and people were thrown together.
I was really pleased that I had made some sort of contribution, something to record the moment and help to make sense of what was a historic, often deeply tragic and yet for some life affirming moment.
Two years on, we are still in the same situation, but have learnt to live with Covid and its variants. Life is still not back to normal, but at least cultural activities have resumed including our beloved Telegraph Hill Festival. This seems like a fitting moment therefore to give these images an airing.
I have had considerable difficulty contacting some of my subjects for approval and text, which only goes to demonstrate how difficult life can be, with little time to make contact with friends and loved ones.
The supplied text is often very poignant - sometimes people had forgotten how they felt, or were loath to drag it all up again. For some, the misery goes on and it was a deeply unhappy time. I am pleased therefore that I have been given consent to show these photographs.
Brought together here are a collection of treasured memories which I hope you will enjoy.
8th July 2022 7pm
I have been a professional photographer for 37 years, both as an employee and as a freelancer.
I began my photographic career at Lewes Museum then as a medical photographer at St Thomas’ Hospital.
Being a medical photographer entailed photographing procedures such as surgery and people, but also services and outreach. There is also a museum at St Thomas’, The Florence Nightingale Museum, for which I was often asked to photograph objects and people. These experiences held me in good stead when I joined The Museum of London.
People often assume that, as a museum photographer, I spend my whole day photographing artefacts. This is true to a certain extent but being essentially a social history museum, the types of photography I undertake for the museum are many and varied.
I can be in the studio in the morning and then out photographing an event in the afternoon. I may start my day taking portraits and finish it out on location gathering images of landscapes or buildings. By far the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my job however, is the portraits I take on location and in people’s homes.
I am often asked to photograph celebrities who have a connection to an exhibition : Michael Caine, Boris Johnson, Ozwald Boateng and Mary Quant being examples, but far more
interesting and humbling are the ordinary people we approach or who approach us as part of an outreach project or because they have a story to tell.
The images exhibited here fall into the latter category but it is doubtful whether this opportunity would have presented itself but for the circumstances which necessitated us all having to lock down.
The style of these shots is more akin to a street photograph where I often stop people and pose them, and yet the subjects are standing in front of their own front door or in a familiar environment. This has resulted in a series of images which are posed in a formal way but maintain an element of spontaneity. Also evident is a pride in their surroundings and the safe environment these have provided .
I took a risk using a small camera and not the large format models I use in my normal work. This made me feel slightly nervous , but having used this camera very successfully for street photography I decided it was the best approach. I wanted to achieve the same element of spontaneity that is normally the reserve of the phone camera.