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Meet the Canberra photographer who’s raised $5000 to support London’s frontline healthcare workers

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The last time we caught up with photographer Amanda Summons, she had just launched her exhibition, The Ladies, at Lyneham’s The Front cafe.

Fast forward two years and things look a little different for photographers and their subjects.

But that hasn’t stopped Amanda, now working as a graphic designer in London, from using her photography to tell powerful stories—or raising over £3000 (that’s around $5500 AUD) for Critical NHS, a London-based charity that supports frontline healthcare workers during COVID.

Having moved to London in March 2019 with partner Dan to “do the stereotypical thing of moving to London, get a cool job and travel Europe every weekend”, Amanda and Dan had planned to spend this summer travelling Europe while Amanda worked on her portrait series, The Ladies.

Instead, well, you can guess how their 2020 has been spent.

As the UK rallied around its heroic healthcare workers, Amanda saw photographers across the world taking action—raising money by photographing people at safe distances in the name of charity.

So, Southwest London Stays Home (#SWLondonStaysHome) was born.

The concept was simple: people living in southwest London (Amanda’s home borough) booked a physically-distanced portrait session with Amanda, who then rode to their house on her bike, ‘Miss Rona’.

Amanda stood a generous distance away (usually on the street or in the garden) to snap her subjects while having a chat, then sent them the digital files.

Amanda photographing subjects for #SWLondonStaysHome.

While she offered the sessions for free, Amanda encouraged her subjects to donate to Critical NHS, a “local grassroots community group who have been making food deliveries to help feed the critical care nurses and other front line staff and by doing so, keeping restaurants and catering businesses going during deep lockdown.”

At first, Amanda was worried that her project would give people the wrong idea—would they be too scared of letting her photograph them?

Luckily, her home borough was more than happy to get on board—and create a unique memory in the process.

#SWLondonStaysHome participants. Photography: Amanda Summons.

“I launched it at Easter and the response was entirely positive,” says Amanda. “It makes me feel wonderful as it gave me a purpose and something to do that was productive during lockdown.”

“I am from a family of nurses and as a creative, I often don’t feel useful in these situations but this was one way I could help.”

Across eight weeks, Amanda photographed 170 doorsteps, raising over £3000 for Critical NHS.

As for who booked the photoshoots, Amanda says her subjects range from “singles to kids to just dogs!”.

While it’s been an administrative challenge for Amanda, who is still working full-time from home, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I had so many enquires that I had to set up live-updating maps with colour coding for which stage each enquiry was at as well as several spreadsheets to track their enquiry and subsequent donations.”

“For those in the photos, I hope it made their days a little bit different and that they now have something with which to look back on this time fondly.”

#SWLondonStaysHome participants. Photography: Amanda Summons.

While #SWLondonStaysHome is now complete, Amanda is teaming up with fellow photographer Laura Schmili Mears, who ran her own lockdown photography fundraiser, to create a physical exhibition in the coming months.

“We also took each other’s doorstep photos, which was nice!” adds Amanda.

As for Amanda’s hopes for London’s slow recovery from COVID, she says people have the right attitude.

“I hope that people still continue to appreciate the small things and really take stock about what they are grateful for.”

#SWLondonStaysHome participants. Photography: Amanda Summons.

“For most of those who I photographed, one of the things they are most grateful for are their homes and this is why it was so lovely to photograph them on their doorsteps or out their windows.”

“I also really hope that people stay tuned into their local communities. For me, this was one of the best silver linings out of all this. I got to know my neighbours and now when I walk around my local park, I sometimes run into people I have photographed.”

“Who knew you could make London feel like Canberra!”

You can also still donate to Critical NHS via their PayPal fundraiser, with the tag #SWLondonStaysHome.

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