Today marks a year since the UK first went into lockdown.
During those first weeks and months when we weren’t quite so used to staying at home, The Dartmoor Collective twitter account started the #My400 hashtag so people could share a small bit of their day.
People were encouraged to post an unedited image taken within 400 metres of their home. The focus wasn’t on art or taking the ‘best’ photo; but sharing what we had experienced, seen or spotted (sometimes for the first time) close to our homes on that day. It encouraged people to look at their surroundings in a new way, notice details, plants and buildings they hadn’t seen before, or even just share the occasionally mundane reality of life in lockdown with a supportive group of people in the same situation.
There was no pressure to post every day and loose themes were sometimes devised for the next day as we all got to know our localities better.
Below, some of the people who regularly posted share why they joined in, how it affected their first-lockdown experiences and also some of their favourite images.
Nature, sharing, solidarity, beauty
My first photo was of the telegraph pole at the top of our road. I’d first heard of the collective after a mention of them by the PRSD, had a look and liked the idea. It took a few days to fully take the plunge but after that it became part of my daily routine. It was the end of March, we had officially entered the lockdown and it was at a stage where you could only go out to the shop or your 20 minutes exercise. Something about being forced to look at your locality under these mad conditions really resonated with me.
Also, secondary to all that, it was quite an isolating time. I was lone working at a support project and my partner has disabilities so there was also an element of connecting to a bunch of people with a similar mindset all going through the same bizarro world situation. Four months on and we forget already how much fear was flying around at the start of the lockdown. It was a nice attempt to bring a bit of beauty and nature (usually) into shitty days.
I struggled to think of one favourite one throughout the time so I’ve settled on two… a shot of the beach after work (bending the rules) or this picture of Ellie looking particularly dopey on our walk
My fave from another contributor was this one from @PapillonGin There’s just something so joyous about their dog being a carefree eejit in the water.
The last one. I stuck to the 400 paces thing for this and stopped at a load of cow hair on the fence
Sharing, sustain, support, solidarity
I came to the Collective Twitter account via a Scottish Photographer I was following. I was already photographing around the 1km square where I live so #my400 gave me both an incentive to carry on taking pictures and the opportunity to share some of them.
The first photo I shared was taken on a beautiful still evening in late April along a green lane behind my house.
One of my favourites was of a hedge bank along the same lane taken a few weeks later. It was very comforting to see that whilst our world was so disrupted live continued around us and the seasons moved on.
I loved looking at everyone’s photos, seeing what they had been doing, trying to work out where they were in the UK or beyond. If I single out anyone it will be @typejunky. I particularly enjoyed their photo from June 4th, The Great Wall in Spencer Street. I lived in Norfolk for many years so it was great to see so many familiar places. I also realised that I had worked with them around 30 years ago.
My final #my400 image was taken 400 steps from my back door, fittingly at the start of the same green lane from where I had taken my first picture.
Supportive, encouraging, normal, funny
I started to join the thread because it was an encouragement to look more closely at what was around us. Even though there were images from talented photographers, it was inclusive of all abilities, and it didn’t have to be too serious. It felt comfortable, do-able & grounding, during an exceptionally strange time. My first post:
My favourite of my own posts would probably be one of my drawings. #My400 encouraged me to explore local woods & take photos, which, because I had more time, I converted to drawings. This improved my drawing & gave me more conversations on Twitter & directed me towards joining the Dartmoor Collective.
I can’t pick one image from the other contributors! For me, I think it became more about the contributors themselves. Ordinary people doing ordinary things in an extraordinary time.
My last post, exactly 400 steps, was of local allotments. Again, a focus on the ordinary and the local.
Cathartic, friendly, enlightening, Justattherighttime
My first photo shared was one of my dog, Smudge, paddling in the River Walkham. I fancied joining in as I realised there was a community out there who on the whole shared similar interests to me. I’ve had a Twitter account for years and never really used it but lockdown got me spending more time online (not really a TV fan) and I just stumbled upon #my400. It came at just the right time.
My favourite photo would be one taken from my garden,
probably of the Lyrids meteor shower. It wasn’t a particularly good picture but
#my400 had got me looking closer to home to see what I can see. I’ve never
shared photos before (outside of my Mrs) so it was a thrill to do it and find
that others actually liked my images.
I can’t remember the exact image [when trying to choose a favourite from other contributions] but it was an astrophotography one that gripped me. We moved to Dartmoor in December (after years of holidaying here from London) and one of the many things I wanted to enjoy was the beautiful night skies.
My last shared image was of a beautiful church in our village which is (roughly) 400 paces from our door. It was a shame it came to an end (paused hopefully) but I’m sure it was a bind to host every day especially as freedom was returning and real life resumed.
Uplifting, thought provoking, humorous
My first photo was:
My favourite was:
My best of everyone else’s may be:
…because it conveyed a message that I think chimed with the group in general and me in particular, or one of the beautiful/abstract and technically brilliant contributions from @TypeJunky or @Teigngardener (as DC) or the fabulous printmakers in the group, or loads of other uplifting, thought provoking, humorous efforts!
My last one was:
Connection, expression, reflection, resonance
The draw of my 400 was seeing the detail and having a window on the experiences of others…images holding a story of their own. A place to “meet”…the coming together to share the strangeness of time.
Photographs have stories to tell, seeing something in nature or our local environments, from close by to further afield as Lockdown restrictions lifted.
Was it an image that created a thought or feeling; or in those daily thoughts was there something that echoed them back to us ?
Caught in the frame of the lens, captured with the eye and resonated within.
Perhaps the visual metaphor added meaning to our stories and owned that moment in time for each for each of us.
Gathering our thoughts of this time …….which reflect both our unique and shared experiences.
This was the first picture I shared, “Evening Light” :
Each of my pictures represented different elements of the time, it was hard to choose just one. I watched the early sun through the broken gate, it reminded me of Wabi Sabi and the art of Kintsugi..”golden joinery” as the sun filled the break. Embracing the beauty in imperfection ….in our lives too. Using all we have and have learnt to become more beautiful, with a deeper sense of peace.
My favourite image from someone else was from @clairedahair. A gorgeous image with beautiful soft evening light. Feeling the free wild gentle spirit of nature. Poignant to the times.
My last Photos : 400 paces from my door – my phone decided to stop working (unfortunate timing) on this last day and so instead of an image from that day, I gathered 4 images 400 paces in either direction from the week.
This was my first photo. I came across a link to my400 via Melissa Harrison’s feed and thought it looked interesting. I liked the idea of sharing images of our local area during lockdown and decided to just jump in.
Inclusive, Moments, Inspire, People
I have struggled with the picking a favourite by someone else, but I have made a collage of some highlights from other contributors.
Talent, Camaraderie, Distraction, Safety
My first was the photo of the Blackthorn. I entered because I take a lot of photos and I thought it would be lovely to share and see other entries in the Dartmoor Collective account. Also it made me look at my environment in a different way.
My favourite is the evening sky taken from my yard. It shows the solitude of my home, it is where I live on my own in a wonderful area, in or out lockdown.
The most memorable is the photo from @AmandaMugford1 – the boat with the red buoy. Made me smile. And I love the sea, always reminds me of happy holidays.
The last photo was of the lock, more than 400 paces from my home, I went there on my bike. The green weed is so intense, it looks like a carpet. I had mixed feelings about ending the #my400. I liked not having obligations and to have no surprise visits but now I had no more excuses to keep away from people. But the end of #my400 was not the end of seeing the lovely photos of the Dartmoor Collective. What a nice bunch they are.
Connected, Uplifted, Engaged, Amused
My first #My400 post was the sunset from my back door. When Stephen thought up the idea of My400, I was, to be honest, sceptical as to whether people would get involved with it, but it’s clearly really resonated and been a catalyst for building the type of online community which we always envisaged for Dartmoor Collective.
I’m genuinely humbled by the response and the amount of love there is out there for it. Stephen did an incredible job to pull it all together and host it day in and day out for months, and really set the tone for what it became.
My favourite of my own images posted is this one which was our first trip out on to the moor proper once lockdown restrictions were eased and we were able to drive for exercise. It’s not technically a great photo but captured a lovely moment between our son and our dog, who has become his absolute best friend during lockdown.
So many to choose from, but I think this is one of my favourite #My400 images from other contributors. I think it sums up the conflicted feelings many of us had about lockdown, and also has a quirkly, slightly ramshackle feel which really fits the My400 ethos.
These are the last photos I shared. Exactly 400 paces from my front door. Like a lot of people I think I felt a sense of loss when #My400 – a loss of connection even though it coincided with greater freedom.
Community, support, landscape, separate
The first pictures I posted were of my view out the front in the morning of that day, and the back garden, with the unused railway line (now a countrified walk) arches which always glow in this amazingly vivid red in the early morning sun.
I noticed the thread when it was posted on Twitter by someone I follow and I liked the pictures; other than fellow piano teachers, I mostly follow people who either make me laugh, or who post beautiful photos or paintings, in particular landscapes, and with regards photos, in particular skies.
I also have a connection to Devon as my father came from North Devon and I went to boarding school there so I think being started by Dartmoor Collective probably had an influence too.
The picture of the Spriggan was taken on one of my favourite walks and was probably the earliest I’d been out. I’ve not been and don’t really consider myself an early bird but during lock down, and not being with my partner, I’ve gotten up earlier and earlier and come to absolutely love the start of the day. I don’t force it – if it is raining or I’m too tired then I don’t get up, which means I always love it when I do. I remember this walk particularly as being lovely weather, a lovely route, and I was feeling particularly happy, as well as virtuous at being up SO early! (Probably around 5 or 5.30).
I don’t have a most memorable photo from everyone else – I just loved all of them. I admit to loving landscapes and skies the most but there were lovely creative and artistic shots so impossible to pick one out.
The last photos I shared were indeed 400 paces – I did as I was told! I took one 400 paces from the back of the house and one 400 from the front (though there are a number of directions I could take in both cases).
I hate any endings and goodbyes so was sad when this ended and glad it continued somewhat, though now, and in fact as then, if I post photos on Twitter it is usually in the morning and I do/did tend to forget come the evenings! It was a nice community of people who posted lovely pictures, were supportive, never discussed the virus or politics, were always appreciative, and when from Devon reminded me of my connection to there. I love my house and where I live and already live too far from my partner but I have the occasional fantasy of living in the country so loved that most of the views were countryside.
Community, Support, Hollow, Open
Following Peter on twitter was my route to #my400. I started with color, I never shoot in color but on waste ground behind an abandoned factory an eye stared back at me. It was lost in monochrome. It’s like a window.
I think this one is most representative. Or I think none are representative.
I found this during a period of hiding. I lived in a space by and around others that were rootless. I had very little, my camera came with me everywhere, there was no security. I would sneak out, making myself inconspicuous and spend every day walking, finding, hiding. Occasionally I had to find money but I preferred to hide every daylight hour. The lockdown first brought fear, but as the city quietened I blossomed out into it. Everything was mine. Later I managed to get into a real home and shortly after, people came back into my streets. Over the last few weeks I’ve been affected by this virus. Between the crowds and the exhaustion I miss my wide open days, when I was queen.
For my favourite of others, I don’t know, there are many beautiful images. One thing which stands out, that almost everything was countryside
It was starting to feel rhythmical for me, I felt myself falling into formula. My last photo, 400 paces, checked and rechecked. Shortly after I moved, 400 paces to the patisserie counter
Fun, inspiring, grateful, community
I came across a link to my400 via Melissa Harrison’s feed and thought it looked interesting. I liked the idea of sharing images of our local area during lockdown and decided to just jump in.
This is my favourite image – I love the light, the fact that the crosses lined up nicely and the symbolism of the bars relating to lockdown and being separated from our loved ones. Exemplifies lockdown as the cemetery is the place where we spent most of our outside time and observed all the seasonal changes.
Most memorable images from another contributor – I was going to say that there were so many amazing images that I couldn’t possibly pick just one, then I remembered this one – seems to sum up this year pretty well!
This is the last photo I posted. I was very sad that the daily postings ended – it was a lovely end to the day and a great way to connect with people from all over.
I’m pleased that it’s continued in weekly form and also that the daily postings have continued through the My400Community hashtag.
Inspiring, inclusive, challenging, fun
I think my first photo was of Verity’s foot.
I like my photo of Fat Ol, next door’s cat, with his big bum hanging off the wall. Makes me smile. I love Fat Ol (real name Olly).
I really couldn’t choose from everyone else’s, they have been wonderful and I have enjoyed everyone’s contribution. I do like the wood and graveyard photos though.
I think my last photo was a really rubbish “exactly 400 steps from the house”. I was sad when it came to an end, but then it didn’t really end, it just transformed. Very happy to be a teeny weeny part of it. I’ve met some lovely people.
Connected, Involved, Attentive, Hope
What made me want to join in? Partly nostalgia for Devon (although images could be from anywhere). I’m in Hampshire for work much of the time, but Devon is where I feel anchored. I agree with the ethos of looking at what’s immediately around you. It was a good ritual to be part of in the evenings. Which was my first photo shared?
I haven’t been able to track it down! But I think my earliest ones were from the garden, ground-level pics of primroses and the like.
Which of my #my400 photos is my favourite …
I was quite pleased with one I did of an urn for #patinacomp, and some flints in the shed.
I can’t say I have a single favourite image from another contributor and wouldn’t want to single out any names! But there are clearly lots of talented, observant, responsive photographers out there. The images that stayed with me were often of simple things – a bench, a puddle, a road – reminding us that the ordinary becomes extraordinary when you look at it closely.
For my last photo I counted 400 paces and came to the former cloister of Winchester Cathedral – too often somewhere I just walk past.
Of course it was a shame to see #my400 go, but it was a big commitment by the organisers to be at the wheel every day at a certain time, so it had to have some point of closure.
Taking part in #my400 helped me to think about the value and purpose of looking, and making images. It was a pleasant, friendly kind of education. So often, I realised, my strongest photos were clearly of one thing – a leaf, a tree against clouds, the turn in a lane. Many of my weaker pictures, I could see, try to do too much. Making photography a daily habit was an exciting experience.
Capturing something through a lens is different from simply looking at it – the object is taken out of the flux of shifting sensations and stands in its own space, outside time.
I was also delighted to have some of my sketches well received, and to have a feature on the Dartmoor Collective website, where I was able to see the work of some wonderful artists. Grateful thanks to Dartmoor Collective for making it all happen!
Connecting, posting, admiring, learning.
My first post was of my local mail box, which was is the only contact with the outside world within 400 metres. I joined in because it was a way of extending my twitter contacts, learning something about photography and having something to do in addition to destroying the garden.
My favourite entry was this one mainly because it was well received.
My favourite post by someone else was a view of the river Teign by @teigngardener which was pure genius.
My last post included proof of 400m using a pedometer.
My feelings were mixed about the #my400 activity ending; on the one hand it was a pleasurable routine yet it did impose a daily discipline which sometimes was difficult to keep up.
Creative, sad, unusual, kind
Like many others I’ve been working at home since the beginning of lockdown, a lot of time indoors with two kids and two cats. I can spend too long in my own head and I liked the randomness of #my400, a bunch of strangers connecting and sharing something from their day, it’s been playful, creative, sad, unusual, kind, like all of us can be really. I’ve been running and walking more during lockdown and #my400 made me pay more attention to where I was and it gave me a little mission, to try and capture something to share.
My first #my400 tweet was our first family birthday under lockdown and it was a day when we’d been stuck at home a lot but celebrating and doing the simple family things; like a cat jigsaw because my 12yo daughter loved it.
One of my favourites was this by @cjspeechless. It sent me and her off down a rabbit hole of discussion about bath caddy trays and @dartmoorcollect got a bit a shouty and it made me weep with laughter. And it is this I love(d) about #my400 and twitter generally that random people you have never met can connect with you and you can share love and giggles. Since that post CJ and I have both sent each other bath salts and chat often.
My last #my400 was this:
My daughter came with me and we counted the 400 paces which got us to our local leisure centre which is deeply uninteresting (and ugly not brutalist cool) to photograph. But I felt it was almost the point really, some of us have had beauty on their doorstep during #my400 but many of us haven’t but we’ve still shared something and that’s what mattered. I felt a little sad about #my400 coming to an end but it made sense as lockdown easing has meant we can all travel further and we are (hopefully) less isolated than we all felt at times.
Community, belonging, acceptance, landscape
This one (April 16th) is probably my favourite; I spent so many afternoons lying in the hammock after work! The blossom was a lovely surprise since our garden is new to us, it was (and is) such a wonderful treat each day watching the garden unfurl.
Really difficult to choose a favourite post from someone else; everyone is so talented! This (from @ ClareRogersArt on May 29) has to be the one though! It’s a beautiful drawing and has really stuck in my mind.
My last was a selection from the churchyard, all spots that were 400 paces from my front door. We visited the churchyard most days in lockdown so it felt appropriate! The ending left me bereft, I was very anxious about lockdown lifting and the end of the daily #my400 represented that.
Generous, inclusive, beautiful, fun
I have such a lovely community locally in terms of neighbours and friends, that it might seem strange to be involved in something further…but there was something intruiging about the #my400 community. I didn’t know anyone, but it was clearly showing photos of places that I knew, or were just a little bit further across the moor and I wanted to know more. I also liked that there were so many people drawn in from elsewhere: Cornwall, Lake District, Norfolk, London, Netherlands It was a lovely point of contact at the end of a working day and I really enjoyed the banter and quick one-liners that developed.
My first photo was May 12th:
One that I liked of my own was stargazy fox. Why? It’s simply the ‘noticing’, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought before #my400.
My favourites of other people’s? It was so difficult to choose, some are downright beautiful, coupled with words that sink deep (@ashwell_lily), wild and imbued with peace ( @wildplaces_ ), as well as both funny and ‘proper’ photos (@teigngardener and @onlyindevon).
Given that I worked f/t all through lockdown (in fact I still am waiting for that holiday) it was nice to have permission to stop. I like the beauty and the quirkiness, the insight into other lives which was wonderful when we were all ‘cooped up’ I love the ‘noticing’ and being invited to ‘notice’. Given that I love the moor so much, that wasn’t difficult, although no one was able to go there in the initial phase of lockdown, so local walks in the lanes surrounding the moor were a pleasure. I like that it led to playlists, sharing music, sharing ideas about poetry and inevitably politics.
Last photos were 400 paces east, south east and south west.
Enlightening, funny, compassionate, thoughtful
I think this is one of my first #my400 pics. I had Coronavirus at the end of March and had to self isolate for over three weeks so the furthest I strayed was my garden. Being part of this hashtag became a vital part of my daily routine when there was no routine. It made me look closely at my environment and make me acknowledge the beauty right under my nose. It made me look down or up, instead of straight ahead
I think this is one of my own favourite pics. I started noticing light more and the effect it had on my pics and on me.
This is one of my favourite pictures, from @littleramstudio the colours are just so vibrant and it makes me smile.
My last picture. On this day this summed up my mood. I have missed the regular contributions and interactions…almost felt like family at times (I know that may sound daft) but I feel I’m a slightly better photographer from the whole experience…I enjoyed seeing all the different styles, the angles people used…I think I picked some good tips as well as engaging with a lovely group of people who shared their little corners of the world.
Inclusive, Distracting, Observation, Beauty
The first photo I shared was of a little Bee in my garden. It felt like Spring was just starting and we were missing it all, so it was nice to notice we had a bit of wildlife close to home too. I’d seen previous posts retweeted by people I follow and decided it would be a good way to help me notice beauty close to home and post photos more regularly, almost a diary of the strange lockdown time.
It was a lovely community of people sharing a strange situation in a realistic way, with no expectations on how we should be coping, or creative expectations for that matter, as the pressure was on there too from some other online creative communities.
My favourites of my own photos are between the graffiti that felt very pertinent, and a photo from my first big walk in the middle of nowhere on Dartmoor, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks.
It was difficult to choose just one photo from other contributors. Oddly my favourites were perhaps the ones that made me realise what was missing in my life. Namely a dog @Dartmoor_JG
…and the sea @AmandaMugford1:
The last photo I shared was 400 paces up the road, into our regular lockdown walk. We discovered a very special ancient wood with wild boar in, after 5 years of living here, that we had no idea existed. Seemingly no one else knows either, as we rarely saw another person aside from a gentleman and his Beagle, named Pip. I think for a whole month at least, he and the market stall traders in Exeter were the only people we spoke to face to face. We neglected this walk after lockdown ended, but I’ve slowly started to do it again out of choice, after enough time passed for me to miss what became familiarity, our little piece of the outdoors where fear and anxiety didn’t exist.
Kind, Challenging, Supportive, Creative
This was my first post although I forgot to use the #my400 – I forgot the hashtag quite often during the early days! Not a particularly good picture but I remember the positive feedback made me feel so much better at a truly wretched time. This was probably the main reason I joined in. Everyone was so supportive and kind as well as funny! It was also something I felt I could easily do, just take photos on my phone everyday. Looking back I realise what a life saver it was (I live on my own and felt incredibly isolated by lockdown when also going through a rough time for other reasons).
This is my favourite of all my posts. It was a beautiful warm, calm evening for wandering around the harbour (fuelled by a gin and tonic!). It’s a poignant one for me as my Dad died later that night (brain cancer). I hadn’t been able to see him due to Lockdown but like to think he was with me when I took this one.
There were so many wonderful #my400 pictures but this, from @manwaring_tim is probably my favourite (well today!) I also love the fadinglightcomp entry by @muddyfox50 but technically that was after #my400 had ended.
Last picture posted. Predictably taken in the harbour, now the boats are back the sand is grey…..Lockdown had its silver linings.
I felt very sad when #my400 ended. I found a group of lovely people and was privileged to see some wonderful work, many regulars felt like old friends. I’m the kind of person that needs a bit of a kick up the backside and that’s what #my400 did for me. As a result I discovered beauty in small things and unlikely places. Ultimately I think it enabled me to view the world more creatively. I miss the daily challenge and camaraderie but am so grateful to have had this through lockdown, it was a lifesaver.