Beyond the Window

The first lockdown was implemented across the UK in March 2020, nearly two years ago. During this time, whilst taking one-hour walks around her West London neighbourhood, photographer and Aesthetica Art Prize alumnus Julia Fullerton-Batten (b. 1970) noticed people looking out from behind their windows. It sparked an idea. She reached out on social media and posted letters through doors, looking for subjects to capture at this unique and somewhat surreal moment. The response was overwhelming. Soon, she was turning up at their homes at twilight, her car stuffed full to the brim with lighting equipment and props.

“The window became key; the focus point for each image,” Fullerton-Batten writes in the resulting monograph, Looking Out from Within. “It was acting as a barrier to the virus and the subjects’ freedom. All conversations would be through this glass, discussing our experiences both physically and mentally, how we were coping and our personal predictions for the future. This window also served as a frame; the figure behind the glass became a picture within a picture – an individual story, one of billions, within the larger pandemic narrative.” These stories are collated in Fullerton-Batten’s acclaimed series, through painterly visuals and the subjects’ own words. From children to newlyweds, families to individuals living alone, the images and accompanying texts take the temperature of a nation adapting to crisis.

Josh and David, Lockdown Day 331 (Above top): “It has been a really eye-opening experience to see the denialists on the news and people who just didn’t seem to care or be bothered about the virus, especially on public transport or in the local park. It has made us question if some people really cherish life or are too self-involved to care about others. However, the local homeless network, council support projects and community foodbanks in the area have countered this negative emotional judgement. We consider ourselves very fortunate as our neighbourhood network of friends and acquaintances came together to become a strong support. Oh, and we got married! Legally, with just seven guests, in our converted greenhouse, all self-catered and fully masked and bubbled. It was most strange but lots of fun, and way less stressful than it would have been had it been the full wedding that we had originally planned!”

Jess, Lockdown Day 261 (Above left): “As well as showing how beautiful and selfless humanity can be, the pandemic has really held a magnifying glass up to its selfishness and wilful ignorance. It’s been at once fascinating and frustrating to see how people have reacted so passionately to the simple protective acts of wearing a mask or being mindful of each other’s space in public places. It’s also highlighted how much of our lives depend on one other, how interlinked so many aspects of society and the economy are, and how adaptable people can be when they want to be.”

Maddison and family, Lockdown Day 386 (Above right): “What happened in 2020 taught me to trust God and not lean on my own understanding, and that love never fails but wisdom is still essential. It’s taught me how to love more and to further practise gratitude for every experience, seeing all of them as opportunities. Gratitude really does build a positive attitude.”

Giovanni, Lockdown Day 319 (Above top): “I am no longer able to go to work as a hairdresser, which has impacted upon my finances. As I’m over 70, I have to be a lot more careful, so can’t socialise or see my family. Although I have just had my first vaccination jab from Pfizer, and I am eagerly awaiting my second dose! I live on my own but my family phone me every day, so I do not feel lonely. I have learnt to look after myself a lot more and be thankful that I am still very healthy at my age – and to try and keep it that way! I have also learnt that not working can actually be enjoyable, so I am finally thinking of retiring.”

Suzie, Lockdown Day 329 (Above left): “After 20 years of building a career, I finally got to where I wanted to be. I was making theatre shows, travelling internationally for worldwide events, and making a very good living. Covid shut it down completely. I lost every booking I had for 2020. I don’t know if my career will ever get back to where it was, or if I can live on it as a full-time job anymore. The future is uncertain, but I always try and be positive that whilst I have life, I have hope, and maybe I’ll find another direction in life.”

Alice, Lockdown Day 76 (Above right): “Mummy and daddy are lucky and can work at home. I have been busy with schoolwork and our teachers have worked hard to keep things as normal as they can for us. I see my friends on Zoom and we play computer games together. Lockdown has made me appreciate actually being able to see my teachers and friends so much more. I hope we can go back to school soon.”

Words: Eleanor Sutherland

All images courtesy Julia Fullerton-Batten, from Looking Out from Within.