Photo by Sophia Evans

Radical 47

To me it was clear that Boris Johnson’s government put profits before people; if we had gone into lockdown earlier thousands of lives could have been saved. By mid-March I was gripped to the horrific news coming from Italy. My anxiety levels were so out of control that I started to have panic attacks, I had to go on Prozac just to get a grip on my mind. During the first months of Lockdown I disinfected everything around me, my hands were red and scaly, I washed all the clothes in Dettol, and I washed all the fruits and vegetables and eggs with soap…

In mid-May I took my usual restricted exercise in the Hackney marshes, only this time I walked further. The sun was shining and it was hot. I walked to the old golf course, essentially an overgrown field, where I spotted quite a few people basking in the sun in Brazilian style bikinis and tiny swimming trunks. I was curious – I walked through the tall trees and bushes to take a look at the river.

It was as if I had entered another world, some kind of therapy river, some kind of river of life. I walked straight into the water fully clothed. I saw splashing, I saw light bouncing on the water, I saw colour, I heard salsa and cumbia music coming from the banks of the river, I saw people touching each other and couples dancing, drinking beer, I saw hugging, I heard Spanish around me, the language of my childhood, I saw parakeets and elderflowers and Lombardy poplars. I caught myself not thinking about disinfectant and death. My body relaxed and some rusty Spanish started to escape from my tongue.

I see the river as a physical space, but more importantly a psychological space. A secret place, contrasting hugely with what was happening outside of this space. Government lockdown restrictions about hugging, touching and contact with people disappeared when you entered the space. At the river the rules were being rejected – a libertarian space, anarchical even, compared to the austere, fearful outside world.

Radical 47 by Sophia Evans was selected by FORMAT 21 Open Call Juror – Wang Peiquan, Director, Lishui Photography Festival, China.