The dark days of Sheffield in lockdown as caught on camera

Fear, intensity and silence – this was Sheffield in lockdown, as seen by photographer Edward Reeve.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 2:43 pm

His book Steel City Lockdown charts the city during the pandemic and the changing scenes as people tried to adjust to a new normal.

Edward, aged 48, switched his focus from antique dealing to photography on a whim. “When lockdown came I felt this weird urge to document it,” he says.

“The first lockdown was the most severe because no-one had been through it before. Everyone felt the same, even going into a supermarket was daunting because you didn’t know what direction to walk in. It all felt so strange, like a scene from Threads.”

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A Greenpeace protester, he had good character in his expression, and think he enjoyed having his picture taken. This was in the heat of the summer when the temperatures were rising not just in terms of the weather, but also the emotions. I like it because of the memory of that day, and the way he looks in his bright hat as though he could be staring up at the heavens in a silent prayer.

He’s referring to the 1984 Tv film shot in Sheffield, a dramatic account of nuclear war and its effects on our city, written by Kes author Barry Hines.

“There was that fear, that intensity, it was something we had never been through,” says Edward.

"The only people on the streets were the homeless, you could hear a pin drop.”

That is until he saw two boy racers chancing their luck. “I saw cars going down the streets incredibly fast, like something from Mad Max.”

I took this while walking. I have been asked (by my brother and dad) if this was a set-up, as in did I put the Corona bottle in the bin with 'waste' on the side of it? The answer is definitely not.

He was also given a mouthful by two yobs in the city centre. “They just swore at me, shouting for no reason. They had no fear, they knew there was nobody going to stop them. They just turned on me and couldn’t have been much older than 13. It felt dangerous.”

So Edward, who lives in Totley, decided to take pictures in black and white. “I always felt they had that dark feel, in keeping with the times,” he says.

In the first weeks of lockdown, he used a Huawei P30 Pro, a smartphone which could be easily hidden. “It just felt safer to be as inconspicuous as possible,” says Edward.

"The city centre had an edgy feel to it and that felt like the best option. Later, as the protests started and more people began to move around, I used the camera much more instead.”

Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images

The camera is a Leica Q (typ 116), yours for £2,239. No wonder he wanted to look after it.

He put a few pictures on social media and was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. “They went down okay, but I’d always had a lack of confidence,” Edward says. Nevertheless the more he thought about it, the more it seemed an opportunity to document the times.

As the months passed, he started to notice a change as the temperature rose. “It was hot and it seemed like all of a sudden there was anger everywhere.

“The protests started - Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter, Anti Vaxxers. Things heated up with the weather.”

Big Issue seller, taken on a Leica Q (typ 116) camera. I love this photograph, because I had to get up close, and he didn't move a muscle. He felt almost like a statue, closed off from the world around him with his face covered by a mask and sunglasses, which reflected in the cobbles of Fargate. This was taken during a lively anti-vaccine march around the city centre, and for me really did show how much people wanted to close themselves off from the world at this time, even with him having earphones around his neck.

The end of lockdown was a welcome relief but there was a hangover.

Edward says: “It felt a bit more normal, although I’m not sure what normal is anymore.”

Restrictions were eased for a few sunny months, but it soon became obvious another lockdown was coming as the temperatures dipped and the R rate rose.

This time Edward sensed a change. “In the second lockdown, people seemed to have lost their fear. The fear of the bogeyman had ebbed away.”

“There were more people about, it didn’t feel the same.”

As for lockdown three, post Christmas, Edwards reckons there was a sense of resignation.

Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images

“People were deflated. They had done their duty, yet were still being told what to do. People have got mentally fatigued.”

Now he thinks people are confused. “They don’t know whether they are coming or going. Businesses are closing, you go into town and it feels like there’s nothing there.”

So who is the man behind the camera? Edward was born in Nether Edge Hospital, grew up living in Fulwood, went to Nether Green Primary and Hope Valley College to study for his GCSEs.

His dad Richard was the manager of a car dealership, his mother Susan a dental hygienist and he has a brother James.

Conventional? Not at 16, as Edward decided against A levels and went straight into retail, working first as a sales assistant in Sunwin House, the department store on Furnival Gate, and then at designer fashion store Limeys, on Chapel Walk.

He did this until he was 27, when his dad decided to open an antiques shop on Ecclesall Road called Top Hat.

Edward said: “He used to go round antiques shops with his mother, she’s always had a knowledge of them.

"He’d had enough of the motor trade and had always wanted to work for himself, so I worked with him, even though I never saw antiques as something I was interested in, I thought it was an older man’s game.

“As I got older I grew more interested and it was a good experience. Eventually I left and set up on my own.”

He traded in the Sheffield Antiques Emporium, Heeley, and Salt Antiques, Norton Hammer. Edward says he’d always been interested in photography but never thought it would come to much until he took a course with a personal trainer at a gym.

“I spent more time taking pictures than being in the gym and that told me something.”

You could call it an exercise in photography. Now check out the results. Steel City Lockdown is available in La Biblioteka book shop, Castle House in Sheffield city centre, or via Lulu.com for £14.99. Edward also has his own website edwardreevesphotography.com

Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images
John Lewis, with the reflection of a crane towering over the side of it. This for me is quite poignant now, as of course John Lewis is no longer staying in Sheffield. Also, it shows how construction had started to get underway in the city during lockdown, and how hot that summer was.
Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images
Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images
Two students walking down Division Street. I like it because of the composition of the lines, and the placing of the subjects. I also feel it gave a sense of loneliness, two lone figures in masks with a sprawling empty side street leading away from them into the distance. Again, this was taken on the Huawei P30 Pro phone.
A blink and you'll miss it moment, with the pigeon taking flight by the sign, 'Be Smart Stay Apart', I like it because to me was apt for times, as not only were we all staying apart, but the wings of the bird were kind of symbolising it (again in a slightly heavenly way) without having the need for a person to be there. Taken on the Huawei P30 Pro.
Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images
Edward Reeve who documented lockdown in pictures and has produced a photographic book with his images