In Pictures: Notting Hill on Lockdown

Marianne Stenger
8th June 2020

As the UK cautiously looks at easing some of the lockdown restrictions that have been in place since the coronavirus pandemic first began to take hold, we spoke to London-born street and portrait photographer Linda Wisdom who has been documenting Notting Hill on lockdown.

As a photographer, Linda started out doing street photography and candid style portraits. Although these styles are still her main passion, she says she also loves exploring urban city landscapes as well as abstract and documentary photography.

Her lockdown images depict the eerily quiet streets of Notting Hill, and in particular Portobello Road, where the Bob Books offices are based. She says she was inspired to document the area after taking an afternoon stroll along Portobello Road.

“I remember being gobsmacked that the whole area was just a ghost town,” she says. “Ordinarily there would literally be thousands of tourists, but on that particular afternoon it was just me and a handful of other locals. In all my years I had never ever seen it like this and my immediate reaction was to get my camera out and document this visual emptiness and general silence.”

She points out that for anyone who knows the area, seeing Notting Hill free of tourists or visitors is a surreal experience.

“I grew up not very far from Notting Hill and have lived in this part of West London for many, many years so I know it like the back of my hand. As anyone who knows the area will tell you, tourist hot spots like Portobello Road Market draw in thousands of visitors and would be super busy and crowded around this time of the year with antique shops, market stalls, street vendors and buskers, as well as bars, cafes and restaurants full of customers.

You’d normally never hear the birds singing in this part of London. So it was quite eerie, but peaceful to witness. As a photographer and local, I felt it important to photo document these rare and unusual times. I have revisited several times since, because I keep seeing something new to photograph, and just to see how things keep evolving during the lockdown. 

On a personal level, Linda says that despite the uncertainty, she has coped well with the lockdown so far and has managed to find new avenues for staying creative.

“Initially I was a bit worried about the lockdown and its financial implications seeing as it was my main source of income as a professional photographer,” she says. “I had a schedule of  photoshoots, workshops and London photo tours lined up and suddenly now these were postponed for an uncertain length of time so it was a bit disconcerting going into this way of life for a while.”

Fortunately, she says, as a creative and self-employed person, she’s learnt to roll with the punches and find her way through difficult  times. In fact, she’s been pretty busy since the lockdown started.

“I don’t know if it’s because more people have been at home and shopping online or because I decided I needed to do more marketing for my photography work which I sell online, but thankfully sales of prints have increased. I also revisited some freelance graphic design and typography ventures that I started dabbling in last year, and these projects have also keep me extremely busy. 

Between all of this, during my designated ‘exercise’ walks around my neighbourhood, I always have my camera phone with me, so I’ve continued taking photos and video documenting things that caught my eye, while out and about.”

Photos © Linda Wisdom. You can see more of her work by visiting her website or following her on Instagram @lindawisdomphotography. For more interviews with photographers as well as photography inspiration, be sure to browse the Bob Books blog.