Man and woman standing on the balcony of a block of flats clapping their hands
Shuvaseesh Das: Clap For NHS, London Suburbs. London-based artist Roy Mehta chose this image noting that it "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.”
Shuvaseesh Das: Clap For NHS, London Suburbs. London-based artist Roy Mehta chose this image noting that it "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.”

Picturing Lockdown Collection

On 29 April 2020 Historic England launched Picturing Lockdown, a unique project in which we asked the public to submit photos to document their experiences of one week in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We received almost 3,000 public submissions from across England, capturing a rich picture of our collective experience in an extraordinary time.

We selected the 100 most evocative, informative and inspiring, added 50 newly commissioned works by 10 contemporary artists and 50 more from Historic England’s photographers to create a final collection to be added to the Historic England Archive.

A record of an extraordinary time

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.

The public call out received an overwhelming reception from across England, with 2,984 submissions from across the country received over the course of seven days.

Explore the public submissions 

Common themes in the public’s submissions give a fascinating insight into people’s experiences in this unprecedented time.

These 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, 10 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.

Explore the artists' submissions

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).

Aidan Moesby (North East) and Bella Milroy (East Midlands) offer insight into their individual experiences while Roy Mehta (London Suburbs) and Malaika Kegode (South West) focus on nature and space.

The 10 artists were each asked to select their favourite public submission from their region, to go in the Archive.

Works from Historic England's photographers

Historic England’s photographers usually document buildings and places, travelling far and wide across the country to create a photographic record of England’s heritage.

They each turned their cameras on their homes and local areas to document their personal experiences of lockdown, from family haircuts and daily exercise to the challenges of caring for a newborn in isolation.

Contributing 10 images each, photographers Alun Bull, Chris Redgrave, Steven Baker, James O. Davies and Pat Payne contributed 50 photos in total to the Picturing Lockdown collection.

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
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