When Francesco Gioia took this photo halfway up Shaftesbury Avenue in central London, he wasn’t thinking of the privilege of being able to move around the city freely without fear of infection, or the luxury of walking into a cinema on a sudden head to watch a movie. It was September 2019, six months before the UK lockdown, and he was more interested in shapes and colors and how people’s clothes could interact with their surroundings in striking ways.
He saw a man walking down the street with an eye-catching hat. “So, as I often do, I followed him discreetly and took a few pictures,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until later that I realized that in addition to the complementary colors you see in the photo – the blues, whites and red of the cinema logo – there was also a small stain of sweat in it. heart shape on the back of his shirt which made the shot more interesting to me as it looks very stylish otherwise. (He never saw the man’s face.)
At the time, Gioia, who moved to London from Florence in 2015, spent six or seven days a week roaming the city streets for such details – a dedication that won her numerous awards during the past year, as well as the accolades of famous American street photographer Joel Meyerowitz. Well, it might only be out one day in seven. “I started photographing inside my house in the first month of lockdown, and I think that made me a different photographer. Before the pandemic, I called myself a street photographer. Now my name is just a photographer. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of the street or at home with your parents, as long as you get a photo.
Looking at this image a year and nine months later, as the country emerges from lockdown, Gioia sees it as a reflection of freedoms we barely thought about at the time. The Curzon Cinema sign is less of an abstraction now, a color to compensate for other colors, and more a reminder of happy moments we no longer take for granted.