It took us by surprise. This was something that only happened in 'other countries'.
That first wave of lockdown found me stumbling around empty streets with my camera. It was then I started to notice the covid street art, the unused cars covered in bird poop, piles of post in shop doorways, broken shop windows, and flower displays dying outside pubs.
There were also early signs of resistance and conspiracy theory; I noticed large pavement scrawls telling Londoners to go back home, and street art references to 'anti social distance resistance'.
I photographed Brighton throughout 2020, taking thousands of images. I saw businesses closing, homeless begging when the few on the streets didn't carry cash, and a gradual polarisation of opinion. I saw shops re-opening and people re-emerging. There was hope and the steps towards normality were gratefully accepted during the sunshine.
The summer passed and my project came to an end. I began to assemble my work into the story of Covid Brighton. Then the infections rose in the North of England, slowly spreading south. It was not long before the local lockdowns became another nationwide lockdown. This story continued, and I went back onto the streets. As I write this just into 2021, a new strain has spread rapidly, and severe lockdowns in place, but vaccine rollouts have begun;
I can do no more and I put down the camera for now. I have felt the pain, despair and frustration personally, but I am one of the lucky ones. I cannot imagine how it was and is again to live with multiple children in a small flat during lockdown or how losing your job impacts day to day life, or being unable to visit the sick and elderly relatives who spent their final days alone.
I heard many individual stories on my journey; I will save them for another time. Right now we do not have the hot summer that helped ease some of that pain in 2020. It is going to be a long dark winter until the promises of Spring. It has brought out the best and the worst in us, I do hope this ends soon.
My name is Mark Heathcote, I am a street photographer. These photographs are a small selection from my year in Brighton during the 2020 Covid 19 pandemic.