Food Banks During Coronavirus
new personal project

Who would you turn to if you suddenly couldn’t afford to feed yourself or your family?

When Covid-19 hit Britain the nation was put into lockdown; businesses, livelihoods and the economy ground to a halt. Since then food banks across the nation have seen a dramatic surge in demand. For hundreds of thousands of people food banks are the only way they can survive.

“Schools and venues closed, so my income closed,” says Antiqu’e, a freelance musician and artists who lives with her 16 year old son, “that is my livelihood, that’s how I pay my bills, my whole earning ability shut down.”

The Trussell Trust, who organises a network of 1,200 food banks across the UK, has seen an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels since Covid-19. Many people employed in the gig economy have seen their work vanish, others in unstable employment have found themselves with no work, even many who thought they had a stable income have seen it disappear.

Anna (not her real name) is a skilled healthcare worker employed by a private company but a genetic disorder means she is vulnerable and cannot see patients face to face. “I want to work, but I have no prospect of getting a salary until there’s a vaccine,” she says. Her income almost disappeared overnight when she suddenly found herself on statutory sick pay. She gets just £95.85 each week and cannot cover all her living costs. The food bank has been a vital for her. “When I was at a low ebb, the fact that someone had put so much thought into a food parcel touched me, it really and truly did.”⁠⠀

Since lockdown I have been volunteering at my local food bank – The South London Food Bank Warehouse. I saw huge amounts of food and essential items coming and going each day, I just couldn’t believe how much the warehouse was giving out. When I talked to the people who had been working there longer, they told me of the dramatic rise in demand since the lockdown started – it was shocking. In April 2020 the South London Food Bank Warehouse fed 3,600 people – three times more than usual. I realised this must also be happening across the nation, so I started documenting it with my camera.

I spent time photographing both the South London Food Bank Warehouse and The Bonny Downs Food Bank in Newham for this project. I witnessed local heroes volunteering their time to support their community. There’s a wonderful positive atmosphere in the food banks, everyone is friendly, no-one is judged, it’s so welcoming. But when you chat to one of the people receiving food you discover just how difficult their life is.

According to the International Monetary Fund we are facing the worst recession since the 1930s. The need for food banks in the UK is sadly only going to rise.

To donate and help food banks across the UK please visit the Trussell Trust or leave some items in the drop box at your local supermarket.

See the full set of images here: LINK

Paddy, a worker at the Bonny Downs Food Bank


Census 2021 – Image Library

Three weeks on the road, over 1500 miles driven, creating more than 100 portraits. The aim – capturing the huge diversity of England and Wales for the 2021 Census campaign. The Census happens only once every 10 years, and enables the government to have an honest picture of every household in England and Wales. The results help to guide decisions about public funding and how the country can best support its diverse and unique communities, so it is super important that everyone takes part. I was really excited to be commissioned for this campaign:  it was a chance to meet, hear and capture people’s stories, documenting the vast, colourful diversity of people in this country. And what an historic year to do it in as well, circumstances like no other. The challenge and logistics of finding and contacting the right mix of ethnicities and different communities was immense. Thankfully I...

Failed Ideas: Jeremy Clarkson - Failed Ideas – the things that nearly happened - Charlie Clift

Failed Ideas – the things that nearly happened

  Ideas, I’ve learnt over time to have many and to be willing to throw them away. I often go through all the necessary pre-production to have an idea ready to go on set, sourcing a prop, lighting an approach, or creating a concept. Then for one reason or another that idea never happens: the talent decides they don’t want to do it, we run out of time, we photograph it then decide it’s no good, or it just doesn’t seem right in the moment. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of my failed ideas in an ongoing series. Each idea will be named with the person it was intended for, but I’m not sure I’ll tell you anymore, I’ll just let you guess what could have been. I think I might turn it into an ongoing project, a way of cataloging the things that nearly...

Jamie Demetriou - Bafta - Bafta TV Winners Portfolio - Charlie Clift

Bafta TV Winners Portfolio

I’m so excited to share my Bafta TV Winners Portfolio with you – featuring 10 award winners this series of intimate portraits for the BAFTA Photography Archive shows the best talent in British TV. When things don’t go as expected it’s good to look for new opportunities. Sometimes you get the chance do things even better. When the 2020 Bafta TV winners could not attend their ceremony in person it meant I could not longer photograph them backstage as originally planned. So as a way of still celebrating their amazing achievements BAFTA and I set about creating a set of portraits in a new and unique way. That’s how I found myself running through a forest with Sian Clifford, diving in a lake with Jamie Demetriou, buying kebabs with Will Sharpe, and discussing politics with Glenda Jackson. Every person featured was so open and giving with their time and ideas....

Helena Bonham Carter - Channel 4 - Helena Bonham Carter – ‘Clown’ for Channel 4 - Charlie Clift

Helena Bonham Carter – ‘Clown’ for Channel 4

Believe in your ideas. I have to remind myself of this sometimes. Don’t be scared of something you think will be awesome, pitch it instead. That’s how I got to photograph the great Helena Bonham Carter dressed as a clown. It all started when Carl Palmer asked me to promote Channel 4’s big Christmas animation of Quentin Blake’s ‘Clown’. It seemed obvious to me, if Helena was doing the show’s narration then we should surely dress her as a clown for the promo shots. Carl agreed (top man). So we put together a deck of our ideas and pitched it. I assumed everyone would say no. But I was wrong. Helena’s response to the pitch was apparently: “clear the entire afternoon, I want to do this photo shoot properly!” And so we did. Collaborating with Helena was a total dream, she brought on board brilliant costume designers to help her...

Andy Coulson - The Sunday Times Magazine - Andy Coulson – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Andy Coulson – The Sunday Times Magazine

Andy Coulson, ex-prisoner, ex-communications director for the Prime Minister, ex-editor of The News Of The World. “There’s something called editoritis. The main symptom is that you believe yourself to be the centre of the world. That everything else revolves around you. And I definitely suffered from editoritis.” It was challenging deciding how to approach photographing Coulson. The phone hacking scandal epitomises the worst of journalism for me, and Coulson was the editor of the newspaper at the heart of it, he was sent to jail because of it. In my mind good journalism is honest, not deceitful, and gives genuine insight, so this is how I tried to approach my meeting with Coulson. I sat and listened to Decca Aitkenhead’s powerful interview technique, and then I sat Coulson down in my makeshift studio. I wanted to capture the man I met: who was he now? Was he remorseful, was he...

Creative Review Photo Annual – Sadiq Khan & Food Banks During Covid-19

It is an honour to have two of my projects selected for this year’s Creative Review Photography Annual. As one of the most prestigious reviews of the the year in photography is wonderful to be included alongside many other brilliant projects. The judges gave my Food Banks During Covid-19 project an honourable mention. The project documented two food banks’ response to the economic impact of the pandemic. I spent time photographing at both the South London Warehouse Food Bank and the Bonny Downs Food Bank in Newham capturing volunteers and staff working hard to help others. I also spoke with visitors to the food banks about their experiences. I’m so glad I can continue to bring attention to the vital work that is being done to help people cope. The judges also selected my portrait shoot with Sadiq Khan for The Sunday Times Magazine. It was my first commissioned shoot...

 - Taylor Wessing Photography Prize Finalist – National Portrait Gallery - Charlie Clift

Taylor Wessing Photography Prize Finalist – National Portrait Gallery

It’s an honour to have this image of Rebekah, a manager at the South London Warehouse Food Bank, chosen to be exhibited in this year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize at the National Portrait Gallery. I photographed Rebekah as part of a project documenting two food banks in London as they responded to Covid-19. When Britain was put into lockdown; businesses, livelihoods and the economy ground to a halt. Since then food banks across the nation have seen a dramatic surge in demand. For hundreds of thousands of people food banks are the only way they can survive. My aim for the project was to highlight the vital work the staff and volunteers are doing, and the struggles of the people they are supporting. This image was taken after I had tried for most of her shift to get Rebekah to step aside from her duties so that I could photograph...

Shaun Bailey and David Walliams - British GQ - Shaun Bailey and David Walliams – British GQ - Charlie Clift

Shaun Bailey and David Walliams – British GQ

New work for British GQ – David Walliams interviewed the conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, and I photographed them both. Somehow Bailey ended up dancing quite a bit on our shoot… It was fun shooting outside on a gorgeous evening in London, we turned the driveway into a studio and embraced the dappled light, then finished off wondering by the waterside. Big thanks to Robin at GQ for the interesting commission, and to my brilliant assistants Oliver Mayhall and Rebecca Gray – couldn’t have done it without you guys. Read David’s interview with Shaun in this months British GQ: LINK

Poppy Appeal 2020 - Royal British Legion - Poppy Appeal Campaign – Royal British Legion - Charlie Clift

Poppy Appeal Campaign – Royal British Legion

  Every year across the country millions of people donate small amounts of money and collect a little red poppy in return. They wear these poppies to remember our armed forces community, to show respect, and to honour those who sacrificed so much for others. This year many of the people who would typically be out collecting for the Poppy Appeal are having to self isolate, many people are working from home and we are all trying to keep distant from one another. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still show our support. The Royal British Legion approached me to help to help launch their campaign this year. As an alternative to the traditional poppy this year they are encouraging people to print out and stick a poppy in their window – a new way to remember. So they asked me to photograph a variety of people around the country...

Alastair and Grace Campbell - The Sunday Times Magazine - Alastair and Grace Campbell – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Alastair and Grace Campbell – The Sunday Times Magazine

“Alastair, let’s put a massive pink backdrop in your garden, it won’t drawn any attention from your neighbours will it?” I’ve been so busy on the road recently I haven’t had a chance to post these from a couple of weeks back when they were published, but what a fun shoot this was. I photographed journalist, political adviser and mental health campaigner Alastair Campbell, and his daughter Grace Campbell, a feminist powerhouse, activist and comedian who inspired my approach to the shoot with her very pink wardrobe. Big thanks to Russ O’Connell for the fun commission and to Oliver Mayhall for his tireless assisting. You can read Caroline Hutton’s interviews with them here: LINK