Ghost Town: Vianney le Caer Captures London under Lockdown
“Even if my work these days gravitates mainly towards celebrity and fashion, I am trained as a photojournalist and I organically feel compelled to cover major breaking news events happening near me,” tells us Vianney le Caer, a long-time member of Ten’s extended family and a photographer with one of the sharpest lenses out there. Le Caer has previously had the experience of photographing war zones across the globe, from the 2014 Islamic State invasion of Northern Iraq and the Ukrainian Revolution to Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Right now though, the danger zone is right in front of his London door, and Le Caer is using his camera to document the city during lockdown as part of his personal photo project.
“There is a wider dimension to the Coronavirus outbreak due to the scale and global nature of the event. Even though it is happening literally down my street, it is also happening in Wuhan, Lima, Milan, Mumbai or New York City. As photographers, we are used to jumping on planes to the other half of the world to pursue stories and projects but the ease of spread of the virus has rendered this virtually impossible and brought us all to a standstill. London-based, I thus feel a greater responsibility and legitimacy to document the crisis as no one else is going to do it for us. It’s a nearly unprecedented occasion where major news reporting has to be done by locals exclusively,” he explains.
For the past few days, Le Caer has been taking four-hour walks, starting at Tower Bridge, and then going to Oxford Circus and back, passing monuments like London Bridge, South Bank, Waterloo Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus on the way. “The streets are mostly deserted to the exception of a handful of joggers and people going grocery shopping or walking their pets. It’s something like I’ve never seen before and without wanting to diminish the horrific nature of the pandemic, I also feel privileged to be allowed out and experience London in this unique way.”
And while we notion of loneliness in self-isolation might see new to some, it’s a feeling quite familiar to Le Caer. He says: “for the last couple of years, I have been traveling in random parts of the world in order to produce street photography series. My personal approach has always been contemplative and candid and I purposefully seldom interact with anyone during my trips. I am not a humanistic photographer: the human element to my photography is present but is not the gravitating core of the work. The nature of the pandemic and the social distancing rules that are its consequences feel thus somewhat natural to me and I keep on doing what I do best, which is taking pictures whilst avoiding human interaction. I’ve even added an extra layer of isolation by listening to music through noise cancelation headphones and I haven’t talked to a single soul. Photographing London on lockdown feels like the perfect continuation of my street photography work and echoes with recurring themes in my practise, chiefly loneliness and alienation.” The outcome is haunting, sometimes even scary, but also poetic and beautiful. It’s docu-photography at its purest form, so stay tuned to Vianney’s Instagram account where he will be sharing more images in the coming weeks.
Photographs courtesy of Vianney Le Caer.