Lockdown laid bare: A photographer's perspective

COVID-19 shutdown laid bare, as captured by Katoomba photographer Dean Sewell

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Katoomba photographer Dean Sewell has been documenting the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Katoomba photographer Dean Sewell has been documenting the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown - primarily in NSW's Blue Mountains and Sydney.

From the first day of the official lockdown on March 23, Sewell described the Sydney CBD as "quite barren." The forecourt of the Opera House, Martin Place and Mrs Macquarie's Chair, once bustling with people, was eerily quiet.

"The main people in the CBD were shoppers visiting still open shops like Gucci and Louis Vuitton," he said. "I looked in the doorways and people were in masks."

Only 'essential' stores were allowed to remain open for trade. Shoppers on George Street, Sydney, March 23, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

Only 'essential' stores were allowed to remain open for trade. Shoppers on George Street, Sydney, March 23, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

The award-winning photographer has captured drive-through COVID-19 testing stations and portraits of people living in lockdown.

"What I have seen is quite a disparity between the Upper Mountains and the Eastern Beaches," he said. "The sense of entitlement and privilege that exists on the eastern (suburbs) beaches was really visible."

Three weeks after people had been instructed to stay home Sewell was in the eastern suburbs on a photo shoot for the Sydney Morning Herald. He saw crowded beaches at Clovelly and Gordon Bay, and car parks, closed to prevent people congregating, being used for family picnics.

Sunbathers and swimmers on Sydney's Gordon Bay flaunting social isolation and distancing measures. They would be dispersed 30 minutes later by police. April 18, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

Sunbathers and swimmers on Sydney's Gordon Bay flaunting social isolation and distancing measures. They would be dispersed 30 minutes later by police. April 18, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

"From a documentary perspective, what's important is to show how our society dealt with it [the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing requirements]. Were they paying attention?" the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize-winning photographer said.

In the Mountains, he hasn't observed large groups of people gathering, although he has seen people ignoring barriers at Echo Point.

On Katoomba Street, he captured Sian Young, the owner of Aunty Ed's Restaurant, demonstrating responsible social distancing three days out from the official lockdown date, as she talked with her colleague, sitting a couple of metres apart on the footpath.

Sian Young and Sheridan Richards, on the footpath, maintain social distancing during a catch-up. March 20, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

Sian Young and Sheridan Richards, on the footpath, maintain social distancing during a catch-up. March 20, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

In Katoomba, many hotels are shuttered and people are renovating.

"People are using the time to spruce up, not only commercial establishments but private too," said Sewell.

The absence of tourists and day trippers is also particularly visible around Katoomba's popular clifftop walks and lookouts.

The photographer shot most of his pictures in monochrome.

"By stripping back colour, the viewer is less taken by the colour properties and has the ability to focus on the issue at hand," he said.

Nearly four weeks after Sydney's lockdown measures are rolled out, a new drive through Covid-19 testing centre opens in Summer Hill, Sydney. April 22, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

Nearly four weeks after Sydney's lockdown measures are rolled out, a new drive through Covid-19 testing centre opens in Summer Hill, Sydney. April 22, 2020. Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi

The story Lockdown laid bare: A photographer's perspective first appeared on Blue Mountains Gazette.

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