Home Events Life in Lockdown: Macfilosofers report from around the world

Life in Lockdown: Macfilosofers report from around the world


Last week I asked our band of authors around the world to share their experiences of the new life on Coron-a-tion Street. Some are working but most of us are in self-isolation following the guidelines of our various governments. What are we all up to in these unprecedented times?

Earlier this week, Jörg-Peter Rau in Konstanz, on the German-Swiss border, gave us a tour of the new reality in this picture-postcard city. In the future, we will be covering some areas in more depth and, also, looking at ways we can usefully use the extra time we’re all sitting on.

For today, here is a quick run-round from those authors who have responded so far. If you have any local news or views, now’s the time to write to mike@macfilos.com


Richard Scott in Toronto

As travellers just returned from the USA, we are in self-isolation for 14 days. The self-policing is being embraced by everyone I can communicate with.  We stopped to buy groceries on the way home, no significant shortages other than beef, oddly enough.  No sign of unrest or abuse of the situation, most of the people in the store were in good humour, calling this the “Great Canadian Hunker-Down”.  My biggest challenge will be finding something to photograph without leaving the house.

Brian Nicol in Ladysmith, British Columbia

Ladysmith has a population of about 8,000 and is located on Vancouver Island, a 1¾-hour ferry ride from the mainland. A state of emergency has been in force since March 21 and virtually everything has been closed except for grocery stores, gas stations and essential services. Restaurants are now allowed to do home delivery or pick-up along with alcoholic beverages (normally illegal). The recommended social distancing is six feet apart. [Ed: Better than six feet under]

I am 66 years old but am really a juvenile trapped in an older body that is long off warranty. I have some underlying health conditions so I’ve been following most of the current recommendations during the past flu seasons, staying away from those people who don’t have the sense to stay at home but come to work. So I’m all in favour of social distancing.

I’ve been doing real estate to keep me busy after my retirement from engineering but that has all been shut down for the foreseeable future. It’s strange to see the streets and even the parks empty while we have been enjoying 12 to 15-degree weather with sunny blue skies. On the positive side, I no longer have to roam to find a parking slot.

So what am I going to do during this official state of emergency? Well, I am going to stay positive and make the best of the situation. For a start, I have decided to put an emphasis on catching up on learning a number of things that have been postponed for far longer than I like. I purchased some advanced image-processing training videos — such as those from Udemy — when they were on big sales over the past three years. So now’s the time to seek and learn.

I am also going to get out and walk a lot more, especially on some trails, and take more images. I went out yesterday with my delightful new Sigma fp (the most incredible viewfinder experience, with the optional viewfinder, that blows the doors off anything else) and captured the image above. The three men in the foreground were enjoying a lively discussion. You can see that they are following the recommended social distance. Canadians are so considerate of others!

Here in Britain

David Babsky in Surrey

I’m sitting at home, as I’m a bit too old – apparently – to be going out to work anyway (and I sold the cinema, what, nearly nineteen years ago). Being “old”, I’m supposed to be keeping away from other people, and not catching the dreaded lurgy. I did have a funny turn last week, and felt incredibly tired for two days, as though the ‘flu was coming on. So now I’m digging into my photo books as you can see. My hero, Monsieur Lartigue, and Vivian Maier, Jay Maisel, a bit of Garry Winogrand.

And I’ve been looking through the photo books I’ve been making for the past nine years, and doing a bit of developing (and then scanning) with that new-ish easy-load ‘LAB-BOX’ tank I supported via Kickstarter (or was it Indiegogo?) as well as, of course, charging up all those batteries in all those cameras. Cameras such as this wonderful interchangeable-lens miniature Pentax Q-S1 that’s sitting here on that easy-load dev tank. Then tomorrow, doing it all over again!

Frank Dabba Smith in Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex

Frank has a long-running visual diary in which he records reflections and includes himself somewhere in the image.  These photos were made on the 22nd and 25th while walking around the Harrow area and also on the 23rd when he dashed up to Edinburgh to bring his daughter home from university. Frank has been using Leicas since the 1970s and these photographs were made using his M10P and 28mm Summicron-M, version 2. Click on the images to enlarge.

David Askham in Wiltshire

I am in the high-risk category, so isolation is critical. My wife is disabled. So our priority is to keep healthy and maintain food stocks to keep us going. We do not visit shops, so will be dependent on family and friends for replenishments and repeat medication. We hope that regular supermarket home-deliveries will soon be restored. So much for survival.

How will we spend our time in isolation? Frankly, that is the least of our problems. There will be more time for exploring photography indoors and in the garden and also time for creative writing. We will be using Skype to provide a link with close family members.

Views from a window. Our bedroom faces south-east. So we seldom fail to be stirred by the sight of a dawn sky and mists lifting in a shallow valley; sometimes gales or frosted garden landscapes. We see wildlife and have a tame cock pheasant parade across our lawns, sometimes accompanied by a harem of young wives. With readers located worldwide, we could be treated to a wide range of scenes, even spectacular ones from high-rise buildings or tree-houses.

Down Memory Lane: I developed this idea when a family member was recovering from an eleven-hour brain operation leaving her the task of reconnecting pathways to perform actions we take for granted. Every few days I sent her one picture of a scene or subject, once very familiar to her, to see what conversation flowed. I extended this exercise to a wider circle of family members to good effect.

Why not make this a periodic theme on Macfilos? One picture and a short narrative to explain its significance to the author. Even non-authors could be tempted to participate.

Kevin Armstrong in Redhill, Surrey

Two weeks ago I went down into town to the main supermarket and was surprised by the empty shelves which would normally be packed with toilet paper. Hmmm. It had all been s-wiped. So back to using newspaper, again. Now, where did we put that bit of string to hang it from?

Six days later on the 19th, I was even more surprised when I returned to find the fruit and vegetable aisles completely empty. What was going on, surely all the hens were a-laying and the cows still a-milking?’ Why the sudden rush on garlic and exotic greens? A lightbulb slowly lit in my brain — ‘hang on, there must be problems with the distribution’. Saturday 21st March and the cat was out of the bag. Ashley Armstrong’s article in The Times was headlined, ‘Grocers blame the distributors for all those empty shelves’. Seems there’s a shortage of lorries, drivers and storage space. Makes sense.

Into this week and on Monday the 23rd Boris Johnson announced a lockdown, “STAY AT HOME”. Will do! Back down to the supermarket the next day, allowed to under the new regime, to find the place had changed again. Two weeks ago there was no toilet paper. Then no vegetables. Now this week some toilet paper, loads of vegetables, but very few shoppers. A complete reversal. Then I saw the wine shelves. Empty, completely empty, of anything under £10. Shows what the self-isolating people were doing, feet up in front of the TV instead of wandering around the shops keeping their distance from each other.

Having been sent on an errand to the main post office, I retreated from the long queue and instead went to the small supermarket and post office near my house. Chatting with the owner, I asked if there were problems with supplies from the wholesalers. He explained that due to the manufacturers having to pay people who were off sick, and the difficulties of getting drivers to bring goods from Europe, they were putting up their prices. He showed me some Jaffa Cakes which came in a previous delivery priced at £1. Then he pointed out those from the latest delivery priced at £1.29 as the photo above shows.


New South Wales

Our veteran upside-down authors, John Shingleton and Wayne Gerlach have both contributed to this one, given that they live not too far from one another and try to meet every Tuesday for coffee in Terrigal. Macfilos is a regular topic of conversation and I normally feel my ears burning around 10 pm on Tuesday evenings as I’m tuning in to Netflix.

John reports from the beach: The cafe is the Surf Club Cafe right on the seafront. As an aside the coffee is awful but the view is superb. Yesterday some patrons bought their own chairs and consumed their takeaways sitting down.

We are now in lockdown but it is nowhere as severe as what you are experiencing in the UK. Cafes are still selling take away coffees and people are still out although becoming more conscious of social distancing.

Personally, and in the opinion of many, I do not think that we are doing enough and more strict restrictions will have to be introduced. As gyms have had to shut all those who would be exercising in a gym first thing were out exercising and weightlifting on the seafront this morning at six and it was crowded — hardly the intention of the rules. I have to say that there were also some beautiful sights. I might be tempted to join a gym when this over if these were typical patrons.

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  1. The Jaffa Cakes are now £1.29, and you only get two thirds of a biscuit?

    And why’d’s that Frank Smith take pictures of a man with a camera glued to his face?

  2. David Askham – Now that is a room with a view. It’s heartening to see such a lovely image of the countryside (we live is a very urban environment). I fear it will be many weeks before we get to see anything other than our neighbour’s brick wall. Please stay safe.

    • Thank you, Richard. Yes, we are certainly blessed with our rural setting. Having spent so many years working and living in the heart of London, I feel well pleased that we chose to rusticate in a quiet county, not so very far from where Fox Talbot invented the negative positive process. Wonder what he would have made of the digital age and our way of life today.

      • He’d have embraced digital photography! ..I mean; so many perfect copies can be made from just one original photograph! ..but he’d have kept well out of the urban intensity, in isolation at the Abbey.

  3. Crazy times. I’m living here in Japan about two hours from Tokyo near Mt. Fuji which I can see clearly from my house and life is still very, very normal. We’re lucky. I had a lunch out with friends at a local winery yesterday ( Yes, we have vineyards here in my area ) and took a train journey up to Tokyo the day before yesterday. Everyone is still at work and there is no shortage of food ( or toilet rolls ) in any of the stores. No chance of Jaffa cakes though! Yes, a lot of people are wearing masks but even that is entirely normal for this time of year as many Japanese wear them routinely to counter hay fever during cherry blossom season. Watching what is happening around the world and getting reports from friends and family back in the U.K. is a bit surreal since we haven’t experienced any impact here yet. Of course that doesn’t mean the situation might not change dramatically and suddenly. The Japanese, accustomed as they are, to handling disasters on a large scale are remaining calm and concerned but there is no panic.
    In times like this with the strong possibility (and reality for some) of being confined indoors, I think many of us are starting to appreciate the gift of nature and what it means to be able to freely walk around in the great outdoors. There’s a local hiking trail that starts close to my home so I have determined to pick up one of my cameras and walk it this weekend to enjoy my freedom while I still can. I’ll likely pick up my M6 or one of my old Minoltas and load a roll of film as it seems to suit the mood.
    Stay safe and healthy everyone, wherever you are. As far as photography goes,If you can get out and stay relatively isolated that’s great but if you can’t, why not set yourself an indoor project? interior shots of your home, close-ups, portraits or candids of your family, the car, or your ‘treasures’ whatever they may be. And for goodness sake turn off the T.V. and computer for a while. You’ll feel better.

    • Great advice, Stephen, and good to hear that life is reasonably normal in Japan. I’m sure we all hope it manages to stay that way.

    • Well seen John. I didn’t even notice the tats – that image is a big crop from an iPhone pic which has John on the other half looking straight at me and saying something profound, not that I can remember what he was saying at the time. Either John or t’Editor Michael cropped John out of the original!

      And I totally agree with Stephen in prior message. Let’s enjoy thinking about photography for an hour or so each day (or other gentle pastime). I have a colleague whose son has taken up medium frame film photography, developing the film with the coffee-vitamin c method.

      • I thought that was strange since Wayne wrote the caption and John was nowhere to be seen. The reason, I suspect, is that John sent the picture and two halves didn’t match up. I certainly didn’t see a bigger version with John in the foreground. Censorship!

        • Mike/Wayne, I have to confess that I cropped myself out for three very valid reasons-the young lady is now even more prominent ( stop laughing), I was seriously out of focus and I looked like a very windswept old man. The photo loses nothing and gains a lot from my disappearance I can assure you.

          • See I would have loved to see the fuller version, with Mr X1 looking at the camera while Miss Tats passed by in her own earpod induced world. I know which direction I would have preferred to have been sitting, and yes Wayne it is in your seat. I just hope you were both practicing social distancing at the appropriate distances of course.

  4. Its good to see, and hear the variety of stories from around the globe about how you are all dealing with social distancing, isolation and just being plain old bored.

    I am working remotely, which is beginning to feel like doing the same forty odd hour a week day job, but locked in a room, and I am now starting to get cabin fever. All I see everyday are the same (and never ending) stream of spreadsheets which feed the feral beast that is all things covid 19.

    What I am liking is talking to people on my phone – the mobile phone is now the life saver it could be. I like teleconferences more now. I also dont miss the business BS that comes with the normal day to day.

    I am missing photography more now, more so since I cannot chose to go out when it suits me.

    Please keep safe guys and take photos once local circumstances allow.


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