Photo by Rose Palmer

Inside: All dressed up with nowhere to go

 Our photographer-in-residence Rose Palmer’s photo essay documents the whacky, wonderful and downright adorable ways children have been escaping the isolation of lockdown.

On 8 March, homeschooling came to an end. School children flocked back to their classrooms to a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere. 

Although the majority are pleased to see young ones back in ‘real life’ education, many will soon be nostalgic for that stolen time, of those long days cosied up inside, peering out at winter passing by.

Those extra quality hours, squeezed in, gave time for families to indulge in the more creative and escapist aspects of lockdown life, like dressing up. Rose Palmer’s photo essay looks at a selection of Bow’s children in all their finery. 

‘I began this photography project in January, after the government announced another national lockdown, including the closure of schools,’ says Palmer. 

‘I was on maternity leave with my son Kit who was born in June last year, and was finding this – like the previous lockdown in November – hard.’

‘Despite the horrors that the country was experiencing, I took a lot of positives away from the lockdown in March 2020. I was pregnant and it was a chance to slow down, spend time in nature and at home.’

‘But I found the subsequent lockdowns much harder, not being able to see family and friends, particularly with a new baby. This project was an opportunity for me to explore how other families with children were finding this period of isolation.’

‘I was thinking of all the new mothers and fathers, the children and teenagers who are missing their friends and are bored at home.’

‘I decided to focus this photography project on fancy dress to make the photo shoots a fun and playful time in themselves. I asked parents and children to escape into their imaginations and come up with the best costumes they could find at home, and then went and took photos from the street.’

Also taken through windows, Rose Palmer documented the isolation of the second lockdown back in Autumn 2020 in her series peeking inside the houseboats along Regent’s Canal.

Cleo and Oliver, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Oliver, six months and and Cleo two years old Photo by Rose Palmer

‘It’s hard to say what’s been good. This is the first lockdown that we are really just the four of us and our dog. They are more brother and sister than ever before, because he was a newborn before but is now expressing a lot. When he wakes up she comes in and jumps on his crib and he has a big smile. It’s really nice to see the relationship between brother and sister evolve. So that’s been nice but also you get cabin fever with it being winter as well. 

It’s also been nice with the snow. Cleo was dressed as a snow leopard and he was an arctic explorer. She loves watching the David attenborough planet earth documentaries so she loves animals.’

 – Julie, mum of Oliver and Cleo

Opal, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Opal, eight years old Photo by Rose Palmer

‘I dressed up as Fairy Princess because they are magical and really brave. It makes me feel magical.

The best thing in lockdown was having lots of family time and late night parties and watching tonnes of movies. I missed going out on holiday and miss my swimming lessons. I am looking forward to re-join my swimming classes and going to school, meeting my teachers and playing with my BFF (best friend forever) once this lockdown is over.’

– Opal

Ivo, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Ivo, eight months Photo by Rose Palmer

‘Ivo was born in May. Initially it was really difficult, the summer was really hot, our flat felt very claustrophobic, but that was partly down to me going through bad postnatal depression and anxiety and that was clouding all my thoughts around things. Getting support was tricky. I went into hospital in September for about 8 weeks – I’m so glad I spoke up and got help.

Since getting better and coming back home I feel so differently and I really appreciate things. The best thing about lockdown is my husband working from home – we have breakfast and lunch together as a family every day. He and Ivo see each other a lot more than if he was in the office. 

Ivo is very happy and smiles a lot. He is growing and changing all the time and it is fascinating to watch and be part of, so lockdown is a bit less boring for us than it might be for other people. Ivo gives a bit of purpose to our days.

It is interesting though, I have had reactions from friends and family that lockdown is the ‘perfect time’ to have a baby. But I don’t fully agree with that. In some ways it has been nice, but the first few months of a new baby are so hard – you need support and people around you – so it is really tough to have to go through that alone.’

– Emily, Ivo’s mum

Elizabeth, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Elizabeth, 13 years old Photo by Rose Palmer

‘I dressed up as Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She’s like a day dreamy character and she is quite funny, she reads newspapers upside down and thinks these creatures exist but they are not really there and she is smart and does what she wants to do. 

Last lockdown I had less structure to my days this lockdown, so I have enjoyed it more. We follow the timetable at school and stuff. It’s difficult because I don’t really enjoy being stuck inside. I am looking forward to going back to school the most and seeing my friends. We haven’t really done socially distanced walks and I didn’t talk to them a lot at the beginning so I feel embarrassed to talk to them more now. 

At least I have siblings who I can talk to. I feel quite bad for only children – it’s a bit rubbish not being able to go to school. Some people seem to really enjoy it at home, I don’t really get it because school is a really big part of being a child and a teenager.’

– Elizabeth

Jack, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Jack, five years old Photo by Rose Palmer

‘I like spiderman because he shoots out webs. I like (lockdown) and i don’t like it – both. I miss my friends at school but they come over and play in the park a bit.  I don’t miss school. I like it more at home because my home has more toys than school does.’

– Jack

Lily, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Lily, eight months old Photo by Rose Palmer

I had images of me at a mum and baby group every day, seeing friends, sitting in the park and that’s all been blown apart and anyway I didn’t anticipate how hard having a new baby would be. I have really got to know her well and have really bonded with her, which has been lovely. 

We’ve conditioned ourselves to see the positives, otherwise you end up miserable every day… There have been so many positives, slowing down a bit, getting to really know Lily and getting to learn how to be good parents. I just had no idea how amazing she would be. She has blown away all expectations. 

It’s been a lovely year, more lovely than I could have imagined and it seems weird saying that in the middle of a pandemic. She’s such a smiley little baby. She is a ray of light in the middle of it all.’

– Holly, Lily’s mum

Kit, Inside photoessay by Rose Palmer documenting the experience of children during lockdown.
Kit, six months Photo by Rose Palmer

‘After the shoot, I asked each person I spoke to tell me why they’d chosen that costume, the things that they have enjoyed about lockdown, what they found hardest, what they were missing and what they were looking forward to. Sometimes the playful nature of the photos do contrast with the family’s experience. 

But each one of them mentioned something positive and I hope that my photo reflects that. I’ll be giving each family a print of their photo and I also hope it’s something that they’ll keep to remember this bizarre time.’ 

– Rose, Kit’s mum

You can see more of Rose’s work at and on Instagram: @roseacpalmerphotos

Post natal depression affects more than one in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect fathers and partners. For further information take a look at the NHS mental health webpage, and PANDAS have a free helpline for people experiencing PND.

If you enjoyed this article you may be interested in this photo essay of customers through cafe Quarantacinque’s coffee hatch

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