In her series, ParkLife, London-based photographer Sophia Spring pays tribute to the cherished green spaces in and around London – places that during lockdown became a necessity and a privilege as we coped with a "new normal".
With everyone stuck indoors and with many without gardens or outdoor space, parks were a vital part of staying sane and fit during the dark months of the pandemic. Sophia went around to the green spaces we've all grown to appreciate, including Hackney Marshes, Shoreditch Park, Hackney Downs, Hyde Park. She shot images of individuals, families, and or friends within the space. She captured "moments of serenity and community in London's green spaces during the chaos of a global pandemic".
The series is now being celebrated in a new book entitled ParkLife, published by Hoxton Mini Press. "2020 sparked a re-energised love of the capital's parks; from first dates to family meet-ups, yoga classes to swimming parties, many of life's familiar activities suddenly started to take place outdoors. London is unique in its sheer number of commons, heaths, marshes, waterways, and woodlands, which occupy some of the most expensive real estate in the world yet remain free and communal to all. This book is both a celebration of the salvation nature brought during the pandemic and an enduring love letter to London's vital green spaces."
The series of images transport us right back to those days when we could go for endless laps around the park during the day, whether we were on furlough, unemployed, or just working from home. With every trip, you'd discover something new or notice people on first dates, walking their dog or an exercise group in the middle of a group HIIT session. You'd look around and know that everyone was in the same boat – just trying to regain normality by being closer to nature. 40% of London is made up of accessible green spaces. If you didn't know that before, you'll know now after more than a year exploring each one.
The photographs are honest, raw, and at once familiar. You can see what these green spaces have meant for the subjects. It's been a place of solace that protected them from the chaos that's been the last year. Many people took to wild swimming and rollerblading, and these parks helped to facilitate those interests.
The series is worlds away from the average images you see of Londoners rushing around the metropolitan, with leering skyscrapers in the background. Sophia's work provides a new lens into a new city – one that has been revived by the green spaces that her subjects occupy. Lockdown may have ended, but our relationship with parks will only grow stronger.