If you follow the local photographic community on social media you may have already come across the work of photographer Joe Gudgeon. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Joe has been out and about on the streets of Preston documenting the impact of coronavirus on local people. I wanted to find out what inspired Joe to take up the project, how it has been received and about his background in photography.
Where are you from?
I am Preston born and bred. I grew up in Farringdon Park and attended St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, St John Fisher’s High School, Art School and latterly UCLan.
What inspired you to start your project documenting the impact that coronavirus is having on Preston?
Since the beginning of lockdown I have been documenting the impact that coronavirus is having on my hometown of Preston. From portraits at a safe social distance through to the impact it is having on local businesses. It is a momentous occasion in time so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture it. I have tried to do it as sensitively as I can. My heart goes out to all the families and their loved ones who have been affected by this horrible virus. Please stay safe everyone.
How have people responded when you have asked to take a portrait?
Overall the vast majority of people have been fine. You can get the odd awkward situation but it’s always the individual’s prerogative whether they want their photo taking or not, and I’ll always respect their wishes.
How has the project been received?
There has been a lot of interest in my photo documentary of lockdown. BBC Radio Lancashire did a feature on it, and several local news organisations have shown an interest. It has been received very well.
Do you ever feel nervous asking?
I am naturally quite a shy person so there is always a degree of apprehension when I approach people. It’s not something that I find particularly easy.
How has coronavirus impacted the people you have photographed?
The majority of people I have photographed want to get back to some semblance of normality. They are frustrated by the lack of clear guidance from the government.
How long have you been a photographer and what inspired you to pick up a camera?
I have been a freelance photographer for around the past 5 years. I am completely self taught. I caught the photography bug quite young. I vividly remember going on a school trip to London when I was 10. My Mum and Dad entrusted me with their Brownie camera. I went on to take many photos of the capital’s landmarks. When we got the film developed my parents were amazed at the composition of the photos!
What do you enjoy most about photography?
I enjoy the anticipation, unpredictability, and documenting history for future generations to enjoy. But most of all I love the interaction with people. I get to meet some great characters.
You had a project exhibited at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. When was that and how did it come about?
I initially found out that the former indoor market was being being demolished on the news. In 2016 I embarked on an extensive photo documentary aimed at trying to capture the unique feel of the place. This included the market hall, adjoining car park and all the characters who worked and shopped there. This culminated in a popular exhibition at the Harris Museum in autumn 2018. I am a proud Prestonian so it was a great privilege to have my work exhibited in the Harris Museum.
The former indoor market holds many special memories for me. I used to make regular Saturday morning pilgrimages to House of Records with my older brother Peter, and I also remember picking up knicks and knacks for my mum. It was part of the fabric of Preston.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I have several projects on the go. The main one is my extensive photo documentary featuring Preston’s traditional pubs and social clubs, although this has been severely curtailed due to lockdown.