“Having a half-hour conversation about constructing chess pieces out of cardboard really puts things into perspective,” says James Page, 25, who lives in Oval, London with two of his best friends, John and (another) James.
“Lockdown is shit – it’s hard and can be super frustrating at times,” Page continues, “so I guess we’re wanting to keep each other’s spirits up by making these ridiculous photos, and it works – it keeps the three of us entertained.”
Ever since March 17, six days before the UK lockdown officially began, the three flatmates, who rent together, have taken a photograph of themselves doing something silly and shared it online.
The shoots have gradually become more ambitious, and what started as a way to keep spirits high in the house is now cheering a wider audience.
“The number of old colleagues, friends, and friends of friends who have reached out to tell us how much it’s made their day, or kept them entertained really is what has kept us motivated,” says John Mitchell, 26, a medical researcher who moonlights as prop master for the purposes of the lockdown shoots.
There’s also a tribute to Mission Impossible, a harrowing trip to the dentist captioned “how’s everyone filing today?,” a trip to the swimming pool where the boys made a splash, a trip to the hairdressers and to go skiing.
“A lot of the ideas came from things we would normally do, or were meant to do before the virus,” says James Dearden, 26, who like the other James is a creative producer by day, but resident cameraman for the house shoots.
Skiing, sushi making, brunch, climbing, gym, yoga, swimming, mini-golf... all impossible under quarantine, but achievable with a little imagination and tape. Other pics are more down-to-earth, reflecting our new day-to-day – such as day 39, captioned: “Get in loser, we’re going online shopping.”
Given how prop-and-outfit laden the photos are, the housemates say their new fans (and detractors) on social media would be surprised to hear they’re quite straightforward to create. “My favourite comment so far was ‘they look like they can afford to do something like this,’ which is hilarious as everything is made of cardboard and tinfoil... copious amounts of tinfoil,” says Dearden.
Straightforward doesn’t mean quick. The shoots sometimes take all evening and planning sessions eat up the weekends – a commitment given all three are working permanent jobs during the day (and feel “very lucky” for that).
Part of what keeps the housemates entertained is how much each session differs: one day they’ll be sitting around a campfire after nightfall to get the perfect shot; another morning, they’re up early to pose for a yoga session.
Most of all, the project has given them something to bond over. “We feel so lucky to have flatmates we get along with,” says Mitchell. “We know that’s not the case for some people, as well as all the uncertainty with jobs, businesses and paying bills.”
Will they be sad when lockdown inevitably comes to an end? The trio are in discussions about how to wrap up the daily shoots when life eventually, inevitably gets back to normal.
“I’m sorry to say our lives will have to as well,” confirms Mitchell, who promises a few corkers first. “We’ve got some excellent ideas in the pipeline,” he teases. “We were careful not to get all our best ideas in at once.”
“The one thing I’ll take from all of this the most,” chips in Dearden, “is that you really can make ANYTHING with a bit of cardboard and a shit ton of tinfoil.”
Update: on Sunday May 10, the housemates staged a photoshoot inspired by this HuffPost UK article. We’re thrilled to be recognised. See the Day 55 edition, entitled “Pressing times. No paparazzi, please” below.