Covid: Those warning signs are being photographed for history

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Matthew Chattle has snapped more than 270 social distancing floor signs in London to help document a "significant period of history".

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
High Road, Wood Green

The editorial and news photographer began to take pictures of the signs - usually painted or stuck on pavements, shop floors, and cobble stones around the capital - with his iPhone camera, usually while travelling between work assignments.

The signs remind people to maintain social distance and instruct them how to queue safely to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Wardour Street, Soho
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Upper Street, Islington
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Lincoln's Inn Fields, Holborn

"The first few pictures were almost taken for fun, but this very quickly became a project I knew I had to pursue more seriously," Matthew explains.

"We are living through a significant period of history and these signs and symbols represent one aspect of it: keep your distance. These signs are as much a part of this period as are pictures of hospitals or rainbows in windows."

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Covent Garden Piazza
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Richmond Bridge, Richmond upon Thames
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Carnaby Street

The photos have been submitted to the Mass Observation Archive - which collects material on everyday life in Britain - for posterity.

"Like all times of crisis, this period should be documented," he says. "Most people want this time period to go away and to forget about it. [But] what might seem unimportant now could be seen differently in the future.

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Long Acre, Covent Garden
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Soho Square
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Cambridge Circus

"Local councils have their own sign designs, as do individual shops and businesses.

"These signs are pieces of information graphics that are essentially functional and ephemeral.

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Oxford Street
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Mount Street, Mayfair
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Piccadilly Circus

"I've been asked what I'm doing, sometimes by shopkeepers and some members of the public.

"They are usually bemused at seeing me photographing my shoes. When I explain what I'm doing people usually understand and can see that the time we are living through is temporary, like the signs themselves. Maybe I should have worn my best shoes.

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Piccadilly Circus station
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Tottenham Court Road
Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Piccadilly Circus station

"I am finding signs that are wearing away or have been removed, leaving a ghost outline.

"Once the pandemic is over they will disappear," he added, "hopefully forever."

Image source, Matthew Chattle
Image caption,
Charing Cross

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