When the UK entered its first nationwide lockdown, Simon Roberts began taking daily photographs of the sea. His new video piece collates 365 images, reflecting on a significant time in our shared history
On 19 March 2020, the UK entered its first national Covid-19 lockdown. “Heading back from the studio [one afternoon]… I stopped to look at the sea, and thought I’d take a photograph,” says Brighton-based artist Simon Roberts. When he returned home, he posted the image on Instagram with the following caption:
The next day, Roberts took another photograph of the same horizon, and posted it with a different sea-related caption. After receiving multiple positive reactions from friends and followers, he decided to continue the project everyday until the lockdown ended. “It became a cathartic process,” says Roberts. “In such moments of collective and personal upheaval, the sea represents one of the few ever-present, physical constants in the world… But the sea is also symbolic of life: tranquil one moment, turbulent the next. It represents the unpredictability of existence; its smooth, placid surface may conceal a raging storm to come.”
When the first lockdown restrictions began to ease in June 2020, Roberts continued to make images of the sea. “As the number of photographs grew, I started experimenting with turning the series into a video piece, based on the idea of an animated flipbook,” he explains. The project continued until 19 March 2021, resulting in 365 images collated into a two-minute video, A Daily Sea (meditation on loss). As the landscapes roll from one day to another – from still oceans to rough seas – there is a sense of comfort that nature, and life, will continue. But at 1.33 minutes, the film is punctuated by a pause. It is 22 January 2021: the day the UK surpassed 100,000 Covid-related deaths. Between the quick, repetitive flow of images, this stillness offers a moment to reflect on the pandemic, and the lives we continue to lose to it today.