Pre-Pandemic Christmas

Just under three years ago, we had not heard of COVID-19. We had no idea of what was about to hit us. Yet in hindsight the photos I took on that Christmas Day seemed almost to foreshadow the lockdowns that were to come. Is that too fanciful? I took an hour out on Christmas Day 2019 to photograph the town where I live, Fakenham in Norfolk. Of course, given the time of day – 2pm – the town was deserted. Nothing strange about that. Everyone would be home enjoying a drink, or a film, preparing or eating their Christmas dinner, being with others. Not being out. Christmas is family time, maybe the most precious family time in the whole year. So, unsurprisingly, I had the place pretty much to myself. It was a bright but cold day. Long shadows were being created by the low afternoon sun – which was great for the black and white photographs I wanted to make. Everywhere was empty. Everything closed. No vehicles, no people. More or less the only sign of something happening was the fact that Christmas lunch was being served in The Crown. I walked and drove around the town enjoying the space, being able to stand in the middle of the road and take photos that I would not normally be able to take. It was most unusually quiet. There was no traffic on the main roads or roundabouts, the petrol station was closed (and bollarded just for good measure), the supermarkets were locked, all the car parks unoccupied. I felt a sense of freedom, and had an eerily different experience of a town I thought I knew well. Little did I know, of course, that just 3 months later, the COVID pandemic would hit, and we would be in lockdown. Then, I would be taking very similar photographs but for very different reasons.


This photo essay was published as NotQuiteFree Press Issue #1 in October 2022.
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