Photographer Aaron Parsons has been taking shots on London’s tube network as he’s used it during lockdown. The resulting series, ‘London’s Lonely Underground’ is a beguiling – sometimes unnerving – view of some of the busiest places in the capital empty of people. He explains how it came about, and what it means to him and to London.
I keep hearing how this latest lockdown has been tougher for people than before. There were elements of the first one that I think some people actually embraced. The world stopping for a while: planes were grounded and our skies took a breather. Personally, my photographic eyes were opened to the simpler things in life on the walks that were in the close vicinity. Spring was springing and you had a proper chance to watch it bloom. But in complete polarity, this darker, winter lockdown has been a real challenge both in terms of mental health and for general photographic inspiration.
I’ve been lucky enough to still have some work coming in and I’ve been involved in socially distanced shoots on location as well as capturing products in my home studio. For some of these shoots, I’ve had to travel on London Underground. This is a system, a world deep below the bustling capital, that I have always admired, both visually and in terms of its industrial prowess. However, travelling on the tube during a national lockdown proved an entirely different prospect so I decided to capture what I saw.
‘London’s Lonely Underground’ is a photographic series documenting London’s empty, subterranean metropolis in lockdown. Over the last couple of months, as I walked the platforms, sat on the trains and navigated the tunnels, I marvelled at the sheer beauty of this underworld. The shapes, structures and colours without the hordes of people struck me as some dystopian, sci-fi virtual reality. It is truly a surreal experience to walk around somewhere normally thriving with people but now so ghostly. I felt it was the epitome of this strange reality we have all had to get used to during the last year. I showed my father the work and he said the images were “hauntingly excellent but also, because of the pandemic emptiness, a statement about how technology is so cold without the rich diversity of people”. I agree with the latter and I guess I felt naturally drawn to capture something so beautiful that might never be seen again but which also encapsulate a real symbol of a lonelier world that without people is rather pointless. We are pack animals, after all.
Let’s hope this is now a document of history and that there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.