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Shutdown – Tommy Sussex

“Shutdown” is a view of the UK’s capital city through the eye of a pandemic. This ongoing project offers a view of London’s collective response during a period where global society is changing and adapting as the result of the most devastating social, political, and economic catastrophes in modern history.

I was compelled to document this period in London’s history for my own photographic archive and to develop a greater personal understanding of the historical situation developing around me. Photographers and journalists working in the public interest were classified as key workers, and I believed my imagery could develop a greater collective understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic as the impact on London unfolded.

Towards the end of March, the COVID-19 data available online was terrifying and confusing. I needed to photograph and share what I was witnessing in the hope of contributing to a larger discussion that aided our perception of the virus, aftermath, and the constantly changing effects within my community and wider society.  It felt logical to pick up my camera and document the fast-moving health crisis that was outside my front door.

This has been a truly mind-expanding time. Tribalism and political differences aside, we’re a single species and this virus has affected us all. There has been time to consider our insistent international pursuit of growth and its effects on the natural world. We’ve re-established the importance and value of certain vital workforces such as NHS staff, delivery drivers, and shelf-stackers amongst others. If you didn’t know which regional politicians were making life-changing decisions on your behalf, now you do.

There is great value and potential to this heightened political awareness. Hopefully, we can move forward with a greater interest in these decision-making processes, who is behind them, and what are their deeper long-term objectives. This experience has revealed to us all that our complex Bureaucratic government has a previously unseen level of control over our lives and healthcare system; the ability to shut down businesses, stop travel on a global level, and drastically affect our freedom. Our lives and the system that governs our society has changed as a result of this pandemic. Once we have controlled the virus, we will need to move forward in a constructive way that addresses previous areas of serious concern.

So much has changed since the start of the pandemic and the global situation is shifting hourly. Photography has been important to our shared understanding of this health crisis and will continue to be as we move forward. There are many people suffering in silence as a result of the pandemic and we still don’t understand the full long-term effects we are facing. COVID-19 has affected each of our lives to some degree and it will continue to be a part of our future. We’ve begun to see the start of anti-lockdown protests around Europe and our knowledge base, opinions, and reactions are constantly developing. I will continue to photograph in response to what’s happening for the foreseeable future.

I am an editorial, documentary, and portrait photographer currently living and working in London. I originally grew up in Devon and relocated to Bristol to study photography in 2012. The images I make attempt to render an individual social reality that carries political weight, and my process focuses on self-experience, navigating that which falls outside of expected photographic reportage, to encompass symbolic gestures and abstracted scenarios. /

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