Highbury Grove students create mini photo-essays of lockdown life

PUBLISHED: 10:57 29 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:07 30 June 2020

Lockdown triptychs by Highbury Grove Academy students as part of a lockdown photography project

Lockdown triptychs by Highbury Grove Academy students as part of a lockdown photography project

Copyright © 2019 Emile Holba. All image rights reserved for Emile Holba.

Award winning photographer Emile Holba asked A level students at the Islington academy to create a triptych of their lockdown capturing an object, a space and a portrait

Lockdown triptychs by Highbury Grove Academy students as part of a lockdown photography projectLockdown triptychs by Highbury Grove Academy students as part of a lockdown photography project

A mother’s passion for music, sunbathing indoors in a shaft of light, and a student’s obsession with her hair, are the subjects of lockdown photo-essays by sixth formers at City of London Academy Highbury Grove.

A Level and BTEC art and design students worked with award-winning photographer Emile Holba and Head of Art Ella James via six Zoom webinars.

Their brief was to produce photo triptychs capturing an object, a space, and a portrait inspired by their own personal lockdown environment.

The webinars included tuition on how to fulfil a client’s brief, create a portrait, and consider factors such as the weight of their object, perception of space, body language, and light sources.

They also learned how to refine their edit and work around equipment and cost limitations such as making a reflector out of cardboard and tinfoil.

“It proved very successful and personally very rewarding,” said Holba.

“It’s been hard for some students to stay motivated over weeks of virtual learning but with the help of an impassioned teacher they came back with their very personal response to their environment. We said it had to be within the lockdown rules, so within the boundaries of their house or garden. The results were spectacular. When I saw the final triptychs I nearly cried.”

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The project is an extension of Holba’s recent photographic essay Hidden City which was also comissioned by Culture Mile, City of London’s cultural district, led by the City of London Corporation, with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

Following their brief to raise awareness of the City of London’s rich cultural heritage, he came up with the idea of a triptych series focusing on the 18 organisations in the area. Inevitably the major exhibition at Bart’s Hospital was shelved due to coronovirus. But after giving a presentation to Academies linked to the Corporation of London, Holba hit it off with Ella James at Highbury Grove and they decided to move the project online.

“We had to think of the best way to communicate with and engage pupils outside their normal education. How to stimulate them remotely and convey the spirit of what I bring as a photographer,” he adds.

The pair ensured that the webinars looked as much like a live lesson as possible and there was a remote exchange of feedback, but Holba has had no direct contact with pupils.

They now hope to display the finished works at the Islington academy in December and roll out the project to other schools.

“I care passionately for the subjects that I photograph,” says Holba.

“I gave students the tools and skills they needed without dictating their creative vision, but I hope I also gave them the idea that you can forge a successful career from photography.”

For more on Emile Holba’s Hidden City project go to

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