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This portrait series celebrates and amplifies the voices of the unsung heroes we never knew we would need. In the coming weeks we’ll be spotlighting various people and places around the world – this first collection was shot in London.
After witnessing panic buying, stockpiling and empty shelves at a local supermarket, we chatted to customers and staff (from a safe distance) to reveal the human stories behind the headlines.
1. Aldi worker
These are the heroes we never knew we would need. This portrait series is a celebration of them. Let’s amplify their voices by sharing their words.
“Before this, I was a lift engineer, a painter and decorator, a sparkie. I can do electrics. Yesterday was the worst day I’ve ever worked – ever – and I’ve been trapped in lifts before!
“We’ve got a new rule… a limit of four of one thing, per customer, yeh? We have to limit it for the people, to make sure everyone gets one. This girl on the till, Brieanna, young girl, she’s like 20 or something, all these customers were coming up to her, she’s crying her eyes out, I had to get her off the till. I went on it instead and said: ‘Guys, let’s not do this, we’re all human beings. We’re in this together.’
“I’m usually a calm person. I do yoga as well. I didn’t lose it, I kept my cool. I try to help the customers who really need it.”
“They call me Tower. I’m an events manager, so I do things like Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival. At the moment they’re saying that everything is postponed until, like, September.
“I’ll be alright for a little while. I’ve tried to have the attitude of not being that bothered about it, but I do understand [the panic]. Like, my mum is quite ill and there are a bunch of other people who are in the same position. I’ve picked up some things for her; I got some fruit because they were all out of veg.”
“I just wanted to get some food for my daughter, Nova.”
We shot this portrait of Roberta outside Aldi, where, each day for several weeks, people have been queueing around the corner. She was with her daughter, Nova, and was one of the many mums who told us that they had struggled to get what they needed for their families – milk powder and nappies were in high demand.
It’s a stark reminder that we need to leave something behind for the person shopping after us. It might be Roberta and her daughter who are missing out. There is enough for us all. We’re all in this together.
This is Paul. When we asked him what he managed to get in our very-busy and very-empty local Aldi, he said: “Nothing.”
6. Rob Billionaire
“People are grabbing so much stuff they’re not even looking at the sell-by dates.”
We want to shine a light on the unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve got two daughters and I’m trying to teach them how to be compassionate and polite. I don’t see it here. I just don’t see it. It’s really sad.
“I was singing ‘Where Is The Love?’ by The Black Eyed Peas, earlier. I was like, let’s just try and get a good atmosphere. To come together around this. I’m trying to explain to customers, we don’t need 10, 15 or 20 of one thing. Leave a few on the shelf for another customer, for people who can’t bulk buy, who might not have the opportunity of getting here at 8am in the morning. They look you dead in the eye like it doesn’t make a difference, and that’s what we deal with.
“So when people say, ‘How are you doing?’ I’m like “I’m fine! I get paid to do this.’ But deep down, we’re disgusted. It’s just… we’re meant to be coming together. God forbid we have a real crisis.”
“I live just across the road with my sister, Laure.”
“I can see the queues out the front of Aldi from my bedroom window. We chose a quiet time to visit, but now there’s nothing left.”
11. Laure and Audrey
“There wasn’t much left, but at least we got our pizza for tonight.”
“I start work at 7am so I can’t get here early. It’s tough mate… I’m a single father. My daughter is 13. She helps out a lot but, as soon as she finishes school, I tell her to go straight home. I don’t want her to see this, you know what I mean? I don’t even want to send her to the shop, or anything.
“Her mother passed away, so I’ll probably need to take time off work soon. My employers, they’re alright, they understand my situation. But am I going to keep getting paid? I don’t know. Are we going to get sick pay? In Denmark, they are paying 75 per cent, in Portugal, I think they’re paying 65 per cent… but here, we don’t know. There’s big confusion. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to pay the rent.”
“Yesterday was the worst day of my life. People shouted at me so much they made me cry. Then a customer bought me flowers and it made my day.”
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