Capturing the people and stories behind the doors of Reading during the lockdown

PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 July 2020

Sapnas neighbour, nurse Christine, whose picture Kate Middleton commented on

Sapnas neighbour, nurse Christine, whose picture Kate Middleton commented on


Reading based photographer Sapna Odlin has been taking doortstep portraits to document lockdown for the local community.

“When our son was born, I wanted to document his life; the mundane as well as the beautiful, and my passion for photography started from there,” says Sapna Odlin, a web developer from Reading. “I’m not a very posey person and I think people like that in my photography. I like to capture emotion and storytell.”

Sapna’s lockdown doortrait project began when she wanted to use her photography skills to help her neighbours. “The aim was to create visual content to document the lockdown for them and tell their stories,” she says. “Visual content is very important; it’s necessary for the public to see how the virus is affecting our daily lives. Pictures can speak so many words in a instant. When you see a photo of yourself you always remember how you felt 
at the time it was taken.”

Doorstep photography isn’t a new idea, Sapna explains. “Photographers have been doing street photography forever. But 
I know these photos will live on 
in families for generations.”

At first, Sapna was surprised by the enthusiasm and excitement the project caused. But she’s beginning to understand why the project has resonated with so many peope. “We’re all part of the story,” she says. “People want to connect and these photographs prove they were there and they played their part. One of my neighbours has lost her job. Another is a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and she doesn’t know when she’ll see her family in New Zealand again, another is a seamstress and has changed from dressmaking to sewing masks, another met a new love interest just before lockdown began. There are so many stories to tell, and I’ve loved being able 
to give them a platform.”

Photographer Sapna OdlinPhotographer Sapna Odlin

One of Sapna’s photographs was even ‘liked’ on social media by the Duchess of Cambridge. “I’m a big fan of the Royal family. I love how close we live to Bucklebury and knowing that Kate Middleton and her fmaily could be close by is exciting,” adds Sapna. “We were in the garden when Christine, my neighbour and the nurse in the photo, told me Kate had liked my photo. She was so mellow and unfazed by it all, whereas I danced around the garden a few times! I still can’t quite beleive it. Kate commented on just four lockdown photos, to encourage us to submit our photos for the National Portrait Gallery competition. The photos have been in some papers along with her comment. I feel overwhelmed that she found my Instagram account and felt so moved by the photo and Christine’s story that she wanted to thank Christine personally for the work she does.

“I’d love to do a doortrait of Kate; to know that she’s supporting a local BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) artist would be absolutely wonderful. She was born in the same hospital as my children.”

Sapna has a son aged seven and a daughter aged three. She explains: “We live in a lovely Georgian flat near the Royal Berkshire Hospital. I love how multicultural and diverse Berkshire is. My son is half Indian and he’s definitely not a minority in his class. There’s also an amazingly supportive and creative community in Reading and lockdown has deepened those connections.

“My goal is to keep doing what we’ve been doing and appreciating what we’ve learnt from lockdown. This unqiue global test of homeworking and the forced incarceration of so many people worldwide has 
taught us to slow down and appreciate the things that 
money can’t buy.

“I would like to continue finding platforms for the stories of my doortraits and to photograph more BAME frontline workers, as this horrible virus is affecting BAME people disproportionately. I’d like to give them a voice.”

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