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Covid Blitz: Sawbridgeworth photographer Mark Edwards documents bizarre chapter in history

A photographer from Sawbridgeworth is capturing familiar yet unsettling local landscapes in a bid to illustrate the “alien atmosphere” the coronavirus crisis has spawned.

Mark Edwards, who lives in School Lane, off Cambridge Road, with his partner Lorna Catt, plans to take 20 images in a photo series which he is calling The Covid Blitz.

The 60-year-old father of three explained: “I was thinking about what we’re going through now with Covid and I thought it really is historic. I thought I’d like to create a series of images that conveys what it’s like – that slightly surreal feeling.”

Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth. Part of The Covid Blitz photoseries by Mark Edwards' (44471760)
Bell Street, Sawbridgeworth. Part of The Covid Blitz photoseries by Mark Edwards' (44471760)

In January, Mark set about creating an image that summarised how he felt while he was out and about during the grip of the pandemic.

“It’s quite strange, quite surreal. And talking to people, I realised how much it had affected everybody’s lives,” he said.

He took a photo in Sawbridgeworth’s Bell Street which shows a masked man making his way along the middle of the road one evening, with a couple of other figures silhouetted in the misty distance.

Mark Edwards (44566034)
Mark Edwards (44566034)

While Mark was taking his pictures that evening, it sparked interest from onlookers, so he published his photo on the Sawbridgeworth Facebook page and social media site NextDoor.

“I got lots of responses,” he said. “People were saying, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. It’s a little bit eerie. It’s a little bit scary’. That’s conveying how I feel about it too.”

While Mark was shooting in Bishop’s Stortford at Northern Parkland, looking towards St Michael’s Mead, for another image – a composite made up of 40 shots – he had the idea for the series.

“The second image was me coming up with the thought that it’s a little bit like the Blitz in London [during the Second World War] when people were restricted in their movement and they all had to turn lights out,” he said.

St Michael's Mead, Bishop's Stortford. Part of The Covid Blitz photoseries by Mark Edwards' (44471762)
St Michael's Mead, Bishop's Stortford. Part of The Covid Blitz photoseries by Mark Edwards' (44471762)

“People still talk about it now and the effect that it had, but there were fewer lives lost in both wars – among civilians – than there have been with Covid.

“With this, the streets are empty, especially during the evening when I go out, and it’s quite strange to see. So that image was about the emptiness of that, but this time the lights are shining.”

To achieve his striking pictures, Mark has adopted a cinematic-style aspect ratio – the dimensions of a picture’s width to its depth – of 16:9. “I’m applying a cinematic look to these images which helps to make the familiar less familiar,” he said.

Mark trained for four years at Southend Technical School of Art and Design to be a professional photographer. Afterwards, he worked in advertising photography for a while, but no longer takes photos for a living. He is a director of two businesses: Boss Equity, which sells software companies, and Outsmart, which “orchestrates strategic positioning and communication” for companies.

He still pursues photography as a creative outlet and, before he moved to Sawbridgeworth, was a founder member of Great Notley Photography Club. He and Lorna are also involved in amateur dramatics as members of Much Hadham Drama Group and Bishop’s Stortford’s Water Lane Theatre Company.

Mark hopes his Covid Blitz series will help him to achieve a fellowship distinction with the Royal Photographic Society.

He has 18 more pictures to create. “I want to include some people in these,” he said. “The problem is I can’t travel, so it has to be within my local neighbourhood.”

Mark is hoping fellow Sawbridgeworth residents will be happy to be pictured, possibly from their doorsteps or looking out of their windows.

Anyone who would like to appear in Mark’s Covid Blitz series can email him at medwards@bossequity.com.

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