A Rotherhithe photographer has captured SE1 residents and their heartfelt letters to the people and things they love and miss, as part of a new photo-series chronicling life during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Akiko DuPont shot the series of portraits during lockdown; asking those featured to pen a handwritten letter instead of an email or text.
The results are heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measure. Several faces will be well-known to our readers.
“I wanted to reflect on how people were during lockdown and writing a letter is different to an email as it’s much more personal and people really expose themselves more. They’re more vulnerable,” Akiko explained.
“They are really exposing themselves to strangers by taking part and although many of their letters were filled with sadness as time went on it became clear that they were also filled with love and hope for the future.
“I hope the project will help people in future look back at this time and see what life was like.”
Akiko met most of the participants for the first time when she took their photograph and read their letters.
As word of mouth spread about the idea that she had originally started with friends, she was put in touch with more people keen to take part.
“They vary from a seven-year-old to someone who experienced WWII, from someone writing to their unborn family, to those whom have lost their loved ones because of the virus,” she said.
“They’re from born and bred Londoners to those who have come from across the globe. These are the stories of what’s happening in the hearts of Londoners – letters from your city.”
Fishmonger Russell chose to write his letter to ‘liberty’, saying this was what the virus had taken from us all during lockdown.
“I wanted to write a letter and say, don’t go, we need you and you’re precious,” he explained.
In his missive he wrote: “So many people have fought for you and cried and died for you, please come back, I miss you so much and a life without you is one of uncertainty and bleakness.”
Emilie and Ismael
Emilie and her eldest son Ismael both wrote letters.
He wrote his to Mother Earth, and she wrote to all the underdogs – people struggling with mental health problems, disabilities, bullying, and people in prison.
Ismael said Coronavirus had led him to reflect more on how his actions affected the planet.
“I feel your pain and I can only say that ‘you are not alone’,” Emilie writes.
“This situation has made us one so please keep hoping. It won’t be easy but we will get through this.”
Bell’s portrait was taken 50 days after her mother had passed away from COVID-19.
The owner of Bell’s Cafe in Bermondsey Spa Gardens wrote of the devastation caused by the virus.
“Most tragically you have taken my one and only beautiful mother forever… every day we pray you will be forever be eliminated before you take any more lives and destroy other families around the world.”
Sueleen and Matt
Mayflower manager Sueleen and her partner Matt met while working in the pub seven years ago.
They wrote to four close friends they met through the Mayflower, who now live in different parts of the world.
A special birthday party where they planned to reunite had to be put on hold due to COVID-19.
“The fun and laughter we shared has brought back many good memories,” they said after taking part in the project.
“When all is safe we are so looking forward to seeing so many of our friends and family, and feel so lucky we have such wonderful beings in this world.”
To see all the portraits and letters, visit www.akiko-dupont.com/portfolios/letters-to-the-loved-ones