Local Heroes On Camera
Local Heroes on Camera
Kingston photographer Isabella Panattoni spent lockdown capturing some of the hardworking local hero keyworkers. Join us to say Thank You to these deserving nominations.
Meet George. A Liberian national, he’s worked Kingston Hospital for the past two and half years as a Porter and Cleaner. “I’ve never been afraid to do my job, the hospital have always given me all the PPE I need. Saying that, it gets hot under all the layers when I’m cleaning the Covid wards. That’s why I need to come outside, to cool down and get some fresh air.”
LALIT AND ASHOK
Meet Lalit and Ashok. They run the local pharmacy. When I first started this project I knew I wanted to photograph them. They’re such an important part of our community. Each time I walked past during the height of lockdown the lines were so long. Sometimes I waited for 30 minutes before I could even ask for a photograph. It took three different attempts to finally find a quieter time so the twin brothers and their staff could stop for 10 seconds. I asked two questions during that shoot ‘Have you found it stressful and is it always so busy’ to which Ashok replied ‘look for yourself, the fact you always have to wait says it all’. With that they hurry back to working incredibly hard to support the community.
I know from talking to other pharmacists around the country that the issue is the same everywhere. During the lead up to lockdown panic buying extended to customers in pharmacies getting extended prescriptions filled that would last them up to 6 months. With that brought a huge list of shortages and stresses for pharmacies. People didn’t understand when the pharmacies did start running out. After all we’ve always had enough, I know some pharmacists have had to bear the brunt of verbal abuse when they couldn’t get prescriptions filled. The day I took this photo I only waited 20 minutes to get in, I’m hoping that’s a sign that things are starting to calm down.
Meet Sunny. He’s 28 and has worked in refuse for the past two and a half years. He lives at home with his mum, dad and step-brother. His mum is a key worker also, she works at Tesco. Although it was scary for them at the start, their both used to life as it stands. Sunny’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and has been going though treatment. It’s been a serious worry amongst the family and they’re putting in a lot of measures at home to keep him as safe as possible. I asked him about his main concerns and he said he’s just happy to be able to do his bit. He’s been really touched by how many people have thanked him as he goes about his job and he got a little bit shocked when I clapped for him and his colleagues. For them it’s just another day, but what they do means so much to all of us. Can you imagine what state our streets would be in if refuse and recycling hadn’t been collected!
Meet Hanna. A Polish national who has worked for @southwest_trainsukfor 14 years. Hanna knew she’d have to keep working through this pandemic, she wanted to make sure other key workers could get to their jobs. Although the first few weeks were daunting adjusting to things, this is her new normal now. Her wife is a chef that works in a restaurant. It’s been closed since lockdown and she’s finding the flat both lonely and suffocating whilst her wife goes to work. It must be hard to watch a partner with key worker status go to work each day; worrying about them but also not having them around for someone to talk to. Taking this photo has been one of the surrealist moments I’ve had whilst making this series. Growing up in London, I’m used to rush hour being a time when train stations are packed with people. However, Friday at 5pm and it was just Hanna and I.
Meet Tim. His family have been fishmongers since 1866. For the last forty years Tim has been in charge of Webster’s of Kingston fish stall in the town centre. He’s remained trading throughout lockdown ‘It’s a lot quieter right now but I still have my regulars who keep coming’ Tim tells me. ‘At the start of the lock down it was a ghost town here but it’s slowly picking up now.’ Each Friday Tony runs a special delivery service to elderly and vulnerable customers ‘it keeps them going and helps them stay safe.’ Tim’s wife has been an NHS dementia care worker for over 30 years. ‘Her patient’s have been hit hard, you try explaining Cornavirus to a dementia patient – it’s impossible’. We discuss how he stays safe during the pandemic. ‘I clean all the counters regularly, there’s only one person on the stall and I wear gloves I’m the only person to touch the goods.’ If you happen to be in the town centre market place, please do make sure you support Tim.
Meet Hazel. Our local postie. Working throughout the pandemic hasn’t been to bothersome for her. “A lot more parcels are coming and going which keeps me busy but I’m happy to do my bit. The @ukpostoffice give us hand gel and my work is mainly outdoors so I feel safe.” Hazel is looking forward to one main part of lockdown easing “our new car was meant to be delivered from the showroom on the 24th March. Then lockdown hit so it’s sitting at the dealership, we can’t wait for the dealership to reopen!” Hazel, like so many frontline delivery workers have kept us all going. From helping make sure hospitals get vital equipment to grandparents being able to send parcels to their grandchildren, they’ve supported us all through some hard times. I wish I could be there to photo Hazel getting her car. After such a long wait I can imagine she’ll be one happy lady!
Isabella Panattoni, Photographer