Shut the Front Door

Photographer Mark Smith documented a country in lockdown — including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — from a safe distance.

Shut the Front Door

Photographer Mark Smith documented a country in lockdown — including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — from a safe distance.

A little over 24 hours before leaving Level 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown, a friend seeded the idea of taking people’s portraits at their front door. There’d never be quite such a time to get people while they were confined to their homes.

 

It would be a revisit of the family portrait, of sorts, with constraints, which I found appealing, and I’d be tripping around Auckland meeting new people. Many families were back together, home from university, some arriving from overseas before borders closed, some with expanded bubbles. With Level 3 lasting 15 days, I managed to photograph close to 130 scenarios, all based around the main entrance of homes. The roads were brilliant to get around. I started using my electric bike, but that only lasted three days as interest in the project grew.

People were mostly happy to see me and they shared their experiences and opinions on life in lockdown. The majority (around 90 percent) had never had a portrait taken - some dressed up, some were in slippers or bare feet, and I spotted a few home haircuts. All sorts of animals were part of the package.

My reach was extended in Level 2. I’d received a few requests from different parts of the country and I was keen to head to Wellington. Securing the interest of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave greater incentive. The portrait is an aid to memory and I loved being invited to people’s front doors, as much as I think they were happy to have their moment of this time recorded, and documented on Instagram.

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