CDH director Annebella Pollen has teamed up with Historic England to explore pictures taken by the public during the first 2020 lockdown.


The Picturing Lockdown projectasked the public to submit photographic depictions of lockdown during April and May 2020, recording an unprecedented moment in an accessible way. Historic England – a public body that cares for the country’s historic environment – received around 3000 photographs, with 100 selected to enter the organisation’s archive collection.

Working with colleagues in the Photography and the Archive Research Centre at London’s University of the Arts, Annebella Pollen – Reader in History of Art and Design, and also Director of the University’s Centre for Design History – has published a report which examines some of the  striking imagery produced by the public.

Her exploration of Picturing Lockdown builds on Annebella’s previous work on mass-participation photography projects from the 1980s onward, chronicled in her 2015 book Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life, which received a paperback publication earlier this year.

Annebella said: “I was really pleased to be asked to undertake this analysis and to put my research into historic mass-participation photography to contemporary use. There has been a huge flowering of participatory public history projects during 2020 and 2021 as people yearn to try to make sense of unprecedented experiences under COVID, and to record images for posterity.

“Many of these projects use photography as a tool to communicate complex feelings, and through my experience analysing large scale photographic archives and public participation projects, I can help make sense of these materials now and for the future.”