Photos & Projects

LCKDN20 – Documenting the Abandoned City – By Giacomo Mantovani

July 29, 2020

At the beginning of 2020, when the virus spread and reached the UK, it felt obvious for me to think of documenting the lockdown, not with videos or digital pictures — but with film instead, as I felt that would be the best way to impress this unique historical moment in time.

Film doesn’t lie, it can’t be manipulated as easily as digital can, for example by removing people from a shot. To my mind, that element makes the entire project a more sincere window to this unique historical moment. Impressing this historical moment on film, is essential for us to never forget what happened. Unique memories of a moment in time where citizens locked themselves at home to protect each other, leaving what used to be the most crowded places, empty beyond imagination.

Motivated by the need to document the lockdown in the best way I possibly could I took a map of London and pinpointed all the locations I thought would have been essential to document, and created an effective 20 days shooting plan to cover all these areas, and then on the 30th March I started shooting.


Giacomo Mantovani during LCKDN20 shooting on the Millennium Bridge, London.

In order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus I was wearing masks and gloves at all times, and choose Jump bikes to move around the city, since they could be picked up and dropped everywhere, allowing me to freely move around different areas of the city. Plus, the fact these bikes are electric meant I could travel long distances without losing too much energy.

The first location was Camden Town, from there I moved to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, ChinaTown and lastly Piccadilly Circus. On the following 19 shooting days I covered many other areas including: Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Bank, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross St. Pancras, St. Paul and the Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Old Street, Shoreditch, Blackfriars, Victoria, Buckingham Palace, Soho, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus, South Kensington, the Barbican, London Bridge, Borough Market, New Bond St, Embankment, British Museum, the Parliament, Canary Wharf, Somerset House, Tate Britain, Royal Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall, amongst the other.

It took me exactly 20 shooting days, from the end of March and the beginning of May, to document all the areas that I have pinpointed on the map at the beginning of this journey. It was quite intense as when I was not shooting I was collecting, scanning and archiving films, and it always felt like time was never enough.

In total, I shot 150 film rolls of empty streets and places, amongst what used to be some of the most busy areas and landmarks in London. The result is possibly the most exhaustive documentation on film of London’s lockdown.

The process wasn’t easy I have to admit. In fact I had to face many issues, both technical and logistical, including an entire batch of 10 rolls compromised by a production issue, an eye infection that kept me sleepless and in pain for a good week — which slowed down my already tight schedule — and without mentioning the huge amount of film rolls that I had to constantly bring for development, collect, scan and archive, in order to ensure I was getting the right shots.

To scan all the film rolls, I have created a system that would hold the films in place over a light panel, placed under a Sony A7R IV with 90mm macro lens. This way I could get high res shots of each negative in raw, therefore properly archiving them.

LCKDN20 scanning setup

LCKDN20 scanning setup

It was a very intense but uniquely beautiful experience, from which I learnt a lot and came out with an archive of extraordinary shots that I am really proud of.

For those who are interested, there is a giveaway competition running on the Instagram account of the project — @LCKDN20 — where a few followers will be selected and announced on the 1st of August, and will be gifted with an original limited edition print, framed in real glass and archival mount board. You can find details of the giveaway on instagram:



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  • Reply
    Steve Phillips
    July 29, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Well done. I have been enjoying the posts on Instagram. They really are remarkable shots, hopefully never to be repeated. Are there any plans for a book?

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 29, 2020 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks a lot Steve. There will be a book about this project coming soon. I will release updates about it through the Instagram account LCKDN20 so please make sure you stay tuned.

  • Reply
    Andrea Bevacqua
    July 29, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Wow Giacomo!
    What a work, bravo!
    I really like your shots. Nice tones of greys and lovely compositions.

    simply love it.


    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 29, 2020 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Andrea, thanks a lot for your kind words.

  • Reply
    S. Mukherjee
    July 29, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Great work of documentation of the present.

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 29, 2020 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    July 29, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Which part of the “lock down” the author did not understand? Unless you’re essential worker you stay locked down and don’t go out.

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 29, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      I appreciate what you are saying, but it was important to document such historical moment, with respect and appropriate precautions. Indeed, LCKDN20 is not just a photographic project, but a way to commemorate and never forget a population that stood together against an invisible enemy.

      Moreover, I do have a press pass. Police officers stopped me a couple of times and they were fine with what I was doing.

      • Reply
        July 30, 2020 at 2:13 pm

        Isn’t the purpose of a press pass to give authorisation to do press work rather than a get out of jail free card for personal projects though?

    • Reply
      Fred Merck
      July 31, 2020 at 6:53 pm

      You are a moron.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for the immense effort you put forth to get these images out there for us to see! They are wonderful examples of how this virus has changed our “normal” everyday. Keep up the great work!

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 30, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Thanks a lot Peter. I really appreciate your kind words. Please make sure you follow the dedicated Instagram account @LCKDN20 as there are going to be some great news released at some point in the soon.

  • Reply
    Graham Spinks
    July 29, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    Inspiring project and lovely images. Thanks for posting.

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 30, 2020 at 9:53 am

      Hi Graham, thanks a lot for your comment.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    What an amazing documentation project! Good for you; I am impressed by your energy level. 150 rolls of film? I know from experience that cataloging, scanning, file nomenclature, and populating the EXIF information for just a few rolls takes a lot of time. I can’t imagine 150 rolls in 20 days. I hope historians can use this archive in the future.

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      July 30, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks a lot for your kind words. And I hope that too. This moment deserves to be remembered. Please make sure you follow the instagram account LCKDN20 as I will announce more news soon.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    Beautiful, eerie work.

    • Reply
      Giacomo Mantovani
      August 2, 2020 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks a lot!

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