Updated: Jul 1
A Photographic Art Collection by Chris Page.
During May 2020 and deep in the Coronavirus Lockdown; I took my daily walks though the empty streets and deserted beaches of the seaside town of Whitstable. With cameras slung over my shoulder I was out to capture these strange days. However, I soon began to realised that many of these locations I had photographed before in much happier times.
It then became a retrospective walk though my back catalogue of photos to find the places where I could contrast two very different moments and moods in time. The Interaction of People from the back catalogue photos vibrantly stood out, compared to the emptiness of life in the Social Distancing of 2020. These shots then become my “Then&Now” collection of photographs. However, in writing this text nearly three years on I realise that “Now” is thankfully no longer “Now”, it has became another “Then”. May Coronavirus stay that way, and never become a “Now” again.
“Life must go on, yes, but in the end — after the end — life was not
important, just pictures on a screen, absorbing for as long as they
lasted, causing us to weep and laugh, perhaps, but when the
images are gone we step out blinking into the light.”
Stephen Volk, Whitstable
Lunchtime 1st May 2020 during Coronavirus Lockdown. This busy one-way system that runs through the seaside town would normally be bumper to bumper with traffic and people spilling off its narrow pavements. The Shop, Restaurants and Pubs that make Whitstable Harbour Street a destination, where Life gathers and interacts, now have their doors closed. On this day with a tripod in the middle of the road I took my time to get the shot I was after without fear of being run down by cars, and not a person in sight!
July 2018, I set out to capture a picture of Life and the Social Interaction of Whitstable High Street, the movements of people, dogs and cars that all creates the vibe of the bustling street scene.
I was pleased with the result, for me it incapsulated my memories of the Whitstable that I love as a child, without focusing on the beach of this seaside town.
May 2020, I returned back to the same spot, but now deep in the Coronavirus Lockdown and with Social Distancing on the High Street; it had lost its vibe, lost its life and has become flattened. Even Her Royal Majesty now looks grey and lonely in her self-isolation on the wall. Boots the Chemist has changed its window display from a colourful sun cream promotion to a subdued "thank you to key workers" statement. The wet surfaces and stormy sky accentuated the oppressiveness of the national human story, which is lockdown and social distancing in our local communities.
“Love, be mystical
as the flickering blue flame of night
as the fully-awoken moon
beneath cobwebs of passing clouds
amidst chanting high-tides
fuzzy, as my blanket
big enough to illuminate a hundred thousand billion galaxies
and just small enough to fit into my embrace.”
Sanober Khan, Turquoise Silence
What is it that we are really missing in Lockdown ?
I think I may have found it at the changing of the low-tide.
But you decide.
I just merely illuminated two flickering moments of time on a Whitstable beach.
July 2016 and the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival is in full swing at the Harbour Market. The brass band plays a Glen Miller tune while people eat, drinks and enjoy this traditional coming together.
May 2020, I stepped up onto the empty performance platform where the band once played and I looked out over a deserted Harbour. Just two lone people walk a dog on wet concrete pass the closed-up huts of the Market. There will be no Oyster Festival this year!
To find a free space in this Whitstable Car Park can be very hit and miss in the busy Summer months, but in May 2020 it’s not a problem. Take your pick of the 260 parking bays, it’s completly empty in Lockdown.
In its emptiness a young woman exercise her dog, throwing a ball across the wide open expance of Tar Mac. Now put into good use as a dogs playground.
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