On 23 March, the evening the lockdown was announced in the UK, Jan Enkelmann was on his bike, cycling through the streets of an already deserted London, astonished to experience the city like he had never seen it in the 20 years he had been living here.
A few days later, Jan decided that taking the camera on his nightly cycling excursions – his chosen form of permitted daily exercise – was a safe way to document different areas of the city without endangering himself or others in the process.
Like many others around the world, Jan felt compelled to document the lack of crowds in usually crowded locations. But looking at the set of images he had made over the weeks, he feels this project has taken on a life of its own. Maybe these photos are less about the lack of human presence and rather about the stillness of a city being allowed a breather to reveal a beauty that would usually go unnoticed.
At first glance, this series is quite different from Jan’s usual work, which is very much about people and humanity in a more general sense. But somehow a human presence can be felt in all of these images.
The stillness conveyed in the photos is reminiscent of Enkelmann’s Smoking Chefs project. With that series, he captured chefs of restaurants in London’s Chinatown taking a cigarette break from their exhausting work in the kitchen. The project was featured on this website last year.
As with Smoking Chefs, Jan was photographing the lockdown images at night, around dusk, which adds to the eeriness conveyed in these photos and sets them apart form a lot of other photos of empty city streets we have seen recently.
About the author:
Jan Enkelmann is a London-based documentary and travel photographer, dividing his time between commercial commissions and personal projects. Most of his projects are observations of people in public spaces.