With his fine art photography series entitled The Locks of Lockdown, Bristol based German fine art photographer Claudio Ahlers attempts to express the multitude of feelings, and at times raw emotions, people around the world lived through during the many long months of lockdown. His enigmatic and mysterious photographs express this extraordinary experience of our lifetime in uncompromisingly visceral ways. An experience that touched us profoundly and deeply in so many ways, where stasis permeated everyone’s lives and where time itself had turned its tide and was now flowing through us instead of us through it.
And yet in slowness there is growth. While many aspects of the isolation that were forced upon us were frustrating, frightening and at times tragic, others opened up space for a different, more introspective experience. One that gave room for self-reflection, re-evaluation and a changing awareness of ourselves, of others and of the world around us.
As lockdown seemed to never want to come to an end, the hair we had grown while in isolation, became an ever heavier burden on our shoulders. What has long been a ritual of renewal for people around the world – the hair cut – became more and more significant, symbolizing freedom regained and the release of all that had accumulated within ourselves, was now locked up inside of us and had been written into every inch of the hair we had grown in this time.
For his series of photographs, Ahlers embalmed a male nude model with hair collected at a men’s barbers in the two weeks after the first lockdown of 2020 ended in the summer that year. Now carrying the burdensome hair on behalf of the people who shed them, this figure embodies a fundamental humanity, primeval and raw, brittle even, challenged to the core.
And yet he stands as a testament to the resilience, tenderness, introspection and defiance that has carried us through lockdown, to the door of the barbershop, into the barber’s chair to let ourselves be transformed, to then finally emerge as changed people as we leave through the shop door to embrace an unwritten future.
Three images from the series will be on show at Galerie Huit at this year’s Open Walls Arles as part of the wider programme for Les Rencontres d’Arles 2021.