“Strange days” is certainly an accurate way to describe the months since the coronavirus pandemic first began to take hold. London-based portrait and documentary photographer Spencer Murphy says the realisation that he had to document what was unfolding came a few days before the UK went into lockdown in late March. As he was driving across town to pick up some shopping, Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ came on the radio. At that same moment, he found himself passing people wearing protective masks and gloves. “It was one of the most surreal and cinematic experiences of my life, and I knew then that I had to try and document these strange days,” says Spencer.
Since then, he’s been taking his camera along when he heads out for daily exercise to photograph people as well as the paraphernalia that has come to symbolise the coronavirus pandemic. “Watching human behaviours change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, has been at once inspiring and deeply unsettling. The effects of this crisis will be felt for generations, and I hope the lessons we learn stay with us in more carefree days to come,” he says.
To get more of an insight into Spencer’s photo essay Strange Days, as well as his own personal experience of living through the pandemic, we asked him a few questions about his work and what it’s been like to document London on lockdown.