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Sam Mellish Home Work working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

Captured: the reality of working from home

One photographer talks us through his thought-provoking portraits

By Bryan Mayes
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Ah, working from home. 'WFH' as some would have it. Sometimes it's alright. And sometimes it's absolutely unequivocally not alright. Never before have so many Londoners spent all their time behind the same four walls. A few months ago South London photographer Sam Mellish decided he wanted to dedicate a whole project to this bizarre yet historic phenomenon. We caught up with him and asked him to talk us through some of the photos.

'Created over five afternoons in late January, 'Home Work' is an observation of people working from home, taken from an outside perspective,' says Sam. 'Starting out from my home in West Norwood, I would spend about three hours wandering and on average capture about three images during that time. Having had newborn twins in the first lockdown, and keen to take them on daily walks, I began noticing more and more people, often sat in isolation by a window with a laptop or desktop, eyes glued to their screen. Lockdown has shifted the way people work and I wanted to document this moment.' 

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'Jacob Alplund works in finance and proceeded to apologise for not wearing a suit when he answered the door. Captured in Tooting, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'Chloe Turner is working from home for the NHS track and trace team. Before lockdown, Chloe was working as a theatre stage manager. Dulwich, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

 'DJ working from home as a social impact investor in Dulwich. January, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'Phoebe Haines has been working from home since the first lockdown in March, 2020. She is a producer. Since then she has been into the office just five times - compared to what used to be 5 days a week. "I doubt I’d want to go back to working in the office 5 days a week," she said. "I did pop into the office last week, I was the only one there on a floor of 250 people." West Dulwich, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'Bruno Zerilli is a structural engineer. “I have been working from home since March 2020, when the Prime Minister hinted at encouraging the practice given the circumstances," he says. "I have taken the liberty of biking to a deserted office once a week to break the monotony of living the same day over and over again. With lockdown upon us, omnipresent technological devices act like go-betweens when communicating with people, sapping the warmth and humanity of the exchanges. Accessing culture has been more difficult. It seems like some simple things, taken for granted in the past, have become remote luxuries. That is why commuting, going out for strolls, hiding from the vantage point of technology when possible helps a lot. Also, reading inspires me very much, it’s another way of travelling after all.” West Norwood, 2021.' 

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

 'Peter Kirwan working from home as a technology analyst with Rudy the dog. West Norwood, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

' Gruff Ywain working from home as a user experience designer in Streatham, South London. January 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'I think this is my favourite image. Frances Janusz, a senior policy adviser in the Civil Service, came to the door wearing a face mask and was all to happy to pose, or carry on as normal as the case was. Streatham, January, 2021.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'After walking around Streatham for about 90 minutes and nothing grabbing my attention, I came across this house. The lady, who worked in media, was more than happy for me to capture her working. After exchanging e-mail addresses so I could forward her the image, I moved on. I sent her an image but I received no response.'

Home Work Sam Mellish working from home
Photograph: Sam Mellish

'In many ways Cindy Utley was the inspiration for this project. Walking home from a local park, I noticed Cindy working from her huge low lit living room, cigarette in hand. I was with my newborn twins and it was like a eureka moment. In my mind Cindy was a crime novelist working on her latest ‘lockdown’ novel. Funny how your mind can get the better of you. I went back a week or so later with my camera and captured this shot.'

Check out the entirety of Sam Mellish's 'Home Work' series on his site

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