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Isolation

Tomorrow Has To Start Somewhere

Over the course of his life, Documentary Photographer Gordon Massie has resided, for extended periods, on three different continents. In each instance, he actively embraced the culture and immersed himself in the country that he, for that period, called ‘Home’. Most recently (and somewhat unexpectantly) London became Massie’s new Home when a transient business trip evolved into something more permanent. In March 2020 Massie found himself in a precarious position, ‘locked-down’ and unable to travel back to South Africa as the responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic spread from Wuhan, China across the world to the United Kingdom. In a strange twist of fate, Massie discovered himself perfectly positioned to experience London as the city and its people evolved over the lockdown period. Living in isolation, Massie took advantage of the allocated hour of exercise per day and plotted a thirty-minute radius from his apartment, allowing him the opportunity to explore a different part of the city each time he went for a walk. Massie’s photographs capture the stark contrast between abandoned attractions that under normal circumstances would be bustling with activity and are now devoid of any human presence and permeate an ominous silence.

The ‘images of isolation’ that these walks inspired are currently in review for publication and are being compiled into a book. This serves as an early release of six images that collectors have expressed an interest in. For further information please contact curators@gordonmassie.com

Tommorrow* has to start somewhere

On my daily walks I often found myself heading south, past St. Paul’s Cathedral and over the Millenium Bridge to the Tate Modern. In spite of the fact that I knew the museum was locked-down and closed to the public, it still seemed a useful first destination on my solitary walks. On the 31st of March, almost 2 weeks into lock-down I found the street art depicted here in my photograph, on the south end of the bridge. The message it conveyed was striking and poignant in the context of the first few weeks of isolation. As it happens I came upon it just in time, because when I returned the following day, it had been removed. This transcience was emphatic and I was glad to have been able to capture it with my camera and share the positive message at a time when, I felt, hope was sought-after.

*Many people commented on the spelling mistake in the street art and I decided to maintain this in the title of the work and the book publication pitch.

The Sphinx

The sphinx image is taken mid afternoon on a Monday on the north bank of the Thames in mid lockdown. The dominant subject of the photograph is a Victorian era bronze sphinx, manufactured in Britain. The sphinx (of which there are two) flanks an obelisk (circa 1460BC) brought to this site from Egypt in the late 1800s as a celebration of the Napoleonic wars. At the feet of the sphinx are seven paperback novels. They are second hand but appear in good condition and unaffected by the heavy rain we had that morning. Initially unable to find out the origins of the books as the streets where empty, I have since learned of an unofficial book exchange program that exists in many parts of London and that this may be part of it. The smooth velvety surface of the Thames is striking on a river usually disturbed by considerable traffic and belies the strong currents running below the surface. The towers of major financial institutions are quietly present on the horizon, a reminder of the uncertain economy the world faces.

The Lamb

On Friday the 3rd of April at two-thirty in the afternoon I stood alone marvelling at the stillness of The Lamb in Leadenhall Market. Having visited many times before when this landmark institution was overflowing with lunchtime customers, this was notably the first time I noticed the magnificent architecture overhead. In the background the Lloyds building stands quietly, also deserted, a reminder of the continuing and spreading results of regulations put in place to ‘flatten the curve’.

The City

I captured this photograph while standing on the banks of The River Thames and looking across at the financial district of The City of London, housing the Bank of England, Stock Exchange, Lloyd's of London and a multitude of financial services and related companies. Considering the composition of the image, I was reminded of the placement of this historic financial district as a major financial centre in worldwide markets. When I shared this photograph with some friends, one commented that these great buildings appear dwarfed and almost insignificant. The angle at which the photograph was taken, my perspective and the vantage point at which I stood no doubt contribute to the visual impact, I would be remiss not to consider the greater poignancy when reflecting on such institutions in the face of a pandemic.

The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square

The closed National Gallery, for me symbolises the deep economic depression the arts industry is in. The esplanade in front leads to Trafalgar Square and both, on any day of the year, would normally be bustling with tourists and street performers. I returned many times to this particular site, deliberating how to capture the right shot of this landmark. My first hurdle is that it is situated on the circumference of my personally imposed sphere of exploration. As a result, the time for waiting for the optimum conditions such as correct lighting was a luxury I did not have. Secondly during the days of hard-lockdown when I found myself completely alone in these expansive spaces, I had some apprehension around my personal security in this particular area and as a result I often found myself distracted. My habit of revisiting sites that interest me provided me an opportunity where I could spend hours and days ruminating about the right shot for this freqently photographed site. After a few weeks I finally arrived on the right day when the moody sky created the perfect backdrop against which to capture the balance constructed by the street lamp in relation to the main building.

Petticoat Lane

Petticoat Lane is in the eastern part of the city, an area famous for its vibrant street markets. Established over 400 years ago, on market days this lane would be filled with thousands of street traders selling everything from leather goods to watches. This photograph capturing a solitary car creates a stark contrast to the teeming, colourful display that today seems like a distant memory. The perspective lines draw the eyes in, allowing themto focus on the closed shop fronts. On the left is a printed out notice stating ‘TO ALL OUR CUSTOMERS. WE ARE CLOSED FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL WHEN WE REOPEN AGAIN……..’, its placement in a plastic sleeve speaks to the haste in which it was erected and simultaneously how temporary interventions have a way of becoming more permanent as enough time passes.