Two Metres: a photo book documenting the pandemic in Camden


Kenwood Ladies Pond photographer Ruth Corney on her thought-provoking portrait of how Covid affected the local community



Life is full of uncertainties and questions. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization stated that the coronavirus had changed from an epidemic to a pandemic. Decisions became even harder to make, as no one seemed to know what the future would entail and how we would deal with it.

The very real fear of falling prey to this pernicious virus was so prevalent and the way we coped was mixed. Almost immediately local help groups were set up, the NHS received more calls from people willing to help than ever before, many lost their jobs, some were furloughed (a word I had never even heard before), schools closed and washing your hands so diligently became the new norm.

As a longterm photographer – you might have seen my images of Kenwood Ladies Pond swimmers here – the way I dealt with all of this was to get my camera out and start photographing people – from two metres, obviously.

Angie and Adrian: “I stayed at home while my partner Adrian, a key worker, was out the door and off to work at 4.30am, driving his waste collection van and loaders to clear waste in Camden. We have started a new hobby colouring number pictures. We’re like big kids when we get new ones each day to colour. Lastly I would say Thursday nights have been massively uplifting through this lockdown. We clap for the NHS but also key workers like my Adrian. It’s all the good things you embrace, the people in our communities helping each other. Captain Tom has been our inspiration. Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost their lives.”  Photo: Ruth Corney

I asked people the questions that were troubling me and how they were dealing in this very strange, frightening time.

It was heartening to hear stories of how people coped, managed and in some cases got to spend more time with their loved ones than they would normally have. It was heartbreaking to hear some stories and to see the devastation that the virus had caused so quickly.

Malik: “My mum used to work impressively long and continuous hours at the bakery in Kentish Town. Now, during this time, it has reminded us what that hard work was for. This was the first Eid we have spent at home and it will definitely be one to remember.” Photo: Ruth Corney

All the photos were take in an around the Camden and Kentish Town area; just one photo was taken in East London. I’d like to say thank you to everyone for letting me photograph you and giving me your time.

All the proceeds from this book are going to the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation. It was a simple decision. Like so many other charities, they have been so busy during this time picking up food, delivering goods and working with everyone.

Nargiz: “I am coping with lockdown by reading, plonking the piano, walking and shopping – very exciting – and trying to remember how I used to draw with pastels. Quite a challenge, that.” Photo: Ruth Corney

“Photographer Ruth Corney rode shotgun in my van on a food aid project I was running for the Camden New Journal during the pandemic,” says journalist Dan Carrier, who wrote the book’s text. “We visited individuals, food banks, charities, community centres, co-ops, everyone and everywhere through the streets of our neighbourhoods.

“As we delivered food parcels, we looked for nicely framed architectural clues of where we live – and the people who were behind the front doors. These pictures will help me remember three months of London in Lockdown. And not all the people in these photographs received food aid – they were merely people we randomly met on our route.”

Two Metres By Ruth Corney (with text by Dan Carrier) is available to buy (£10) from Owl Bookshop, Gail’s in Swains Lane and from the charity here. For more books by Ruth Corney including her latest about the Kenwood Ladies Pond head to her website here .

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