Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Artist Helen Bryant and family ©

JJ Waller’s photographs nail lockdown

HOT’s Erica Smith was delighted when a review copy of JJ Waller’s latest documentary photography book dropped through the letterbox.

Back on 30 March, Brighton-based photographer JJ Waller who has documented life in St Leonards for over a decade sent me a Facebook message: “Erica would HOT be interested in doing a feature about my Lockdown project?”

The Buttrey Family ©

JJ’s lockdown photographs of Brighton households were featured on page 3 of the Guardian. Whilst I liked the concept and love his photography, I knew HOT readers weren’t going to be interested in photographs of Brighton, and I was unsure whether lockdown regulations would allow JJ to drive 40 miles eastwards to take photos in our town.

The Edward family ©

Fortunately my lack of enthusiasm did not dampen JJ’s determination. With the help of Anthony Bradnum and Ann Bloomfield he started photographing St Leonards and Hastings residents through their doors and windows. For the next two months, JJ drove over once a week, and continued to photograph in Brighton and the village of Firle. Altogether he spent about 25 days taking photographs – sometimes visiting as many as 20 households in one day.

Selecting photographs for the 100-page book would not have been an easy task, but the project appealed to legendary documentary photographer Martin Parr who agreed to make the final edit. JJ Waller explained:

Claire Witkin ©

“Handing your edit to Martin Parr after eight weeks or so of taking photographs is ‘interesting’ to say the least. Parr’s years of experience and his keen eye mean he can build a group of pictures that inform on each other as a group, tell a story, impact an inherent truth, and communicate with visual strength.

At colleges and universities where he has been a visiting lecturer his critiques are legendarily brutal. My main worry was if he would find enough images he even liked. I need not have worried though. His edit I thought just brilliant.”

St Leonards Mosque ©

A photograph of me made the final cut – though you won’t necessarily recognise me behind the soap suds and pink washing up sponge. I love this portrait and how it is placed opposite the portrait of another St Leonards’ resident (Helen Bryant) and her family.

Photographing portraits of people through glass windows and doors – often textured glass – is a photographer’s nightmare but it is a brilliant symbol of ‘This Time’. Hands and faces pressed to the glass, mobile phones with images of the shielding residents poked through letterboxes, net curtains, reflections from the street and glare from the sun are all used with empathy and humour to produce, in Parr’s words, ‘an iconic memory of this strange time we have all lived through.’

Competition: your chance to win a framed print from the lockdown book
When you get your book in the post or from Waterstones, share a selfie holding the book. If you are in the book – share a selfie holding the book open to the page your picture is on.
Simply post your pictures to instagram @jj.waller or tag @jj.waller
The three most fun and imaginative selfies will be selected on 1 September and each will win a a unique signed and framed printers’ proof print of your choice from the Lockdown book.

JJ Waller’s Lockdown: Informal Portraits of This Time costs £11.99 and is available locally in Waterstones bookshop, or you can order direct from – buy any two (or more) books from the online shop and you don’t pay any postage.

The Grimshaw Harris Family ©

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Posted 21:45 Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 In: Photography

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