If you’ve been down to Roman Road’s café Quarantacinque recently, you may have noticed a photography display stuck humbly to the back wall in the form of A4 sheets of paper. This is the lockdown project of owner Francesco Ragazzi.
On March 17, Ragazzi decided to close the café door a week before government orders due to warnings from his Italian family. ‘My parents are both medical doctors. My mum was telling me “this is something. You need to take care”’, he remembers.
From this point, he ran his coffee shop through his trusty side window. ‘We have been very lucky to have that window – a wonderful point of view on life – to carry on our business.’
Beyond the hazy barrier of a plastic screen, Ragazzi recognised the significance of his unique insight. ‘Something was changing around us’, he says in his Italian accent, ‘and I thought that it was a nice idea to try and document this moment in time’. Having initially moved to London to study photography, he turned to his camera.
He began to take photos of his customers as he served them each day, culminating in a tender black and white portrayal of this historic period through his window, and through his eyes. ‘I was documenting the fact that life was going on. It was a new way of living that we are still understanding’, he explains with a breaking profundity to his voice.
The solitary figures share more than just a background. ‘It is strange that all of them are smiling. They weren’t all particularly happy, but this was a nice moment of their day. I was possibly the only other person they were speaking with outside of their house. It was very deep. I was happy to be there for them.’
With the pace of London slowing down, Ragazzi observed the patience of his socially distanced queues. ‘One at a time, they would come to the window, making the experience very direct. I have been, in some way, closer to these people.’
From regulars to ambulance workers and policemen that pulled up on shifts, this little window tucked away at the end of Roman Road provided a cup of comfort in the midst of a strange new world. ‘That time, that three minutes with me, were good ones. It was a great pleasure and I really did enjoy it. Because I was there, they were thankful for it.’
The photos below are a collection of the images he took between 17th March – 23rd April.
You can see more of Francesco’s photography on his Instagram page: @francesco_ragazzi
If you liked this article, you might enjoy a lockdown photo essay submitted by our readers.