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As the lockdown started to take hold, photographer Fran Monks, like many freelancers, found her paid commissions were being postponed. But she really wanted to document this extraordinary time where so many are isolated at home and so set about using her skills as a portrait photographer.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“My professional aim is to use portraiture to celebrate the undercelebrated,” Monks says.

“During this lockdown, everyone who is social distancing is playing an important role.

“And I wanted to highlight that.

“We are all communicating a lot more on video calls.

“And I had long considered this as a potentially interesting way to photograph people.”

Monks began by photographing her subjects over the internet, initially with them quite close to their devices, but slowly began to realise it was much more interesting to include more of the environment in the picture.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“I have to collaborate with people, asking them to position their laptop or tablet on the other side of the room while I direct them from a far,” she says.

“It is a really fun way to work, although bandwidth, webcams and light all present big challenges.

“I decided that I would make the final image by photographing the screen, because I like the strange artefacts which appear.

“Even though the images are made by layer upon layer of digital process, I enjoy the fact that the black border of the computer screen is somewhat reminiscent of a darkroom print from a negative.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Abi on day one of social distancing.

“At the start of the week, she was on a course about the art of social engagement, at University of the Arts (UAL).

“But that obviously got curtailed.

“And now she’s at home with her eight-year-old, getting used to the new reality.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“Teresa is 81.

“She lives on her own in Edinburgh and was not looking forward to having to social distance.

“It was great to get her using Facetime and to connect in this way.

“We will all be needing to do more of this over the months to come.

“And it’s great to feel that while some parts of our lives are shrinking, others can expand.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“Jeb had already been social distancing for about a month before the complete lockdown.

“This is because he is in a vulnerable group and also, as a self-professed Twitterholic, has been reading about the severity of the corona crisis for quite some time.

“Jeb is 68 and retired.

“He used to be a freelance programmer, so says that he would often spend lots of time at home, alone, in front of a computer screen.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Caspar, who had already limited his social contact before the lockdown started in the UK.

“Caspar is working on two new books at the moment.

“One is about the transformation to the zero-carbon economy.

“He had lots of meetings and fieldtrips set up over coming months and they’ve all had to be postponed.

“As a writer, he’s quite used to social isolation.

“But he was looking forward to getting out into the world for a change.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Amelia, who I photographed in her attic in Spain.

“She is British but moved to Spain about two years ago.

“Amelia has a five-year-old and a three-year-old, so the pace at home is fairly relentless.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“Social distancing is a huge challenge to all world-class opera singers, like Dan, with theatres everywhere closed.

“Dan says he’s had a surge of creativity since having to be at home, because lots of performances were postponed or cancelled.

“He’s working on ways to bring opera to a digital audience by helping separated singers to sing together.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Anne, an artist who has had all her upcoming art projects in the community postponed but is thankful that she is also working on a history MA [Master of Arts degree] so can keep herself busy with her studies.

“We had an amusing time placing her laptop in lots of different locations around her flat before finally settling on this kitchen portrait.

“I keep wondering whether it will change how I practise in the real world once we are allowed out again.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is my lovely friend Kate, doing her morning pyjama yoga.

“Not only is Kate a yoga teacher but she is also an expert in palliative care, a music therapist, wonderful singer and knows a lot about breath and breathlessness.

“She has all the skills needed in a pandemic lockdown, to be honest.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Kawsar, the proprietor of one of my favourite Oxford restaurants, The Standard Indian.

“I photographed him via Zoom and the help of a very precariously balanced laptop.

“Once the government required that all restaurants closed, The Standard tried a couple of nights of takeaway service and then decided that the safest thing for the community was to close down completely.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Niki.

“He was a great sport, even at the end of three weeks in isolation from his family.

“It had been a really tough time.

“Not only had he been feeling really sick but two of his work associates, who contracted the virus at the same time, had been even sicker.

“They had both ended up on ventilators in hospital.

“Fortunately, everyone is now on the mend.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“Sally lives in Clerkenwell.

“And although she normally works from home one day a week, her company asked them to work from home all the time, before the lockdown started.

“She is inside pretty much all of the time and only goes out for a half-hour walk, at the end of the day.

Image copyright Fran Monks

“This is Tom.

“He’s a conductor.

“Basically, 2020 has been cancelled for him workwise and will now, all being well, happen in 2021.”

All photographs courtesy Fran Monks.

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