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Lost society | Through the glass

Mieke Douglas
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Entry Fee: Free

Peering into dark, empty spaces. Camera pressed up to smeared, steamy glass. Glimpses of shiny Christmas decorations; cleaning products and hand sanitisers; abandoned drinks and occasional humour.

The allure of our past life is becoming irresistible. Visceral pleasures tempt me, but are still dangerous. Out of reach.

Our lives from before, becoming ever more distant. Evocative. Unimaginable. Fading. I am grasping at fragments. Photographing to try to remember.

Looking in as an observer, no longer a participant. Imagining the fun and life and noise. Empty spaces, still beautiful but becoming fantastical. Otherworldly…

On 15 Dec 2020, the night before the UK returned to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, meaning all bars and restaurants would have to close at 00.01, our family enjoyed a last supper in a small local, family-owned restaurant.

The atmosphere here, and apparently in bars and restaurants across the country, was curiously celebratory. Like one last Mardi Gras before the sacrifices and fasting of Lent.

As I looked around the room I was touched by the huge effort, time and money spent by the owners, to make everything as safe and comfortable as possible: cleaning and sanitising products; plastic partitions; patio heaters and blankets. But also, and somehow more poignantly, the elaborate Christmas decorations just put up in preparation for their busiest time of the year, which was now not to be.

The next day I returned to find this restaurant and others like it, now shut but otherwise left untouched. I looked in through the glass from the outside and photographed into the darkness, adjusting the dials on my camera to reveal what remained inside. I became spellbound, beguiled by every scene frozen in time, like a metaphor for our lives. Each story unique.

I spent the next four months of lockdown walking the streets of London – out most mornings for an entire winter, usually on my own, in all weather – sometimes too numb from wet and cold to even press the shutter. Driven by some palpable sense of urgency I couldn’t quite explain, I just had to photograph every single one I could reach on foot, within the quarantine regulations, to create a record of these spaces and document our collective pause.

Here are a few of my favourites.

Mieke is a Dutch and Canadian, self-taught fine art photographer, living in London. She is known for her atmospheric lighting and surreal perspectives. Her work is described as moody, almost painterly, with an underlying sense of unease. 

She has recently won several major awards including: International Photography, Chromatic, Minimalist, Julia Margaret Cameron, Budapest International and British Photography Awards. Mieke was also Shortlisted for the Alpha Female Award at the Sony World Photography Awards and for the Association of Photographers Emerging Talent Awards. Her work is held in private collections and has been published and exhibited internationally, including at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She has recently had her first Solo Show, STILL, in London. Mieke has just won Open Image Barcelona and will have her White Horses: Covid Dreams series exhibited in Barcelona this Autumn.

She is an ArtCan Artist and a member of The Royal Photographic Society, The Association of Photographers, London Independent Photography and Photofusion.


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Entry Fee: Free
© Rob Johnston

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