CLOSE UP: Gavin Smart – The Isolation Diary

 Shutter Hub member Gavin Smart is an award-winning freelance photographer and digital assistant based in Edinburgh, working throughout the UK and beyond.

His photographic practice is a process of imaginative storytelling. It is driven by a powerful need to share his own story and those around him, drawing upon valuable life experience to produce creative and thought-provoking imagery.

His approach is cinematic in style, featuring theatrical light, emotive colour and constructed imagery, drawing a particular influence from painting, film and literature. His work marries the production of advertising for some of the UK’s top arts institutions and creative agencies, alongside carefully considered personal projects, as a means to explore his own narrative, and an attempt to make sense of an ever changing and complicated world.

For Gavin, the highlight of his work to date is an ongoing commission with The Royal Opera House and The Royal Ballet in London’s Covent Garden. 


Gavin’s new series, titled The Isolation Diary, is a gentle meditation on mental health and the value of human companionship amid the COVID-19 crisis. The final project is presented in the form of a visual diary, combining photography and text in a scrapbook style format, as if the viewer were reading a very intimate, private journal.

This series has already won 1st Prize and People Photographer of the Year at the recent 2020 Moscow International Foto Awards, with possible exhibitions in Scotland and Taiwan, and others still waiting to be confirmed.


Upon returning to Edinburgh in early March from a six-month commission in London with The Royal Opera House, to isolate with my new girlfriend Rosie, I faced almost no employment or income. Like many across the country, the COVID-19 crisis hit hard, causing feelings of worry, fear, isolation and loneliness. As someone who has experienced mental health issues, for a long-time I have struggled to create meaningful projects on this challenging subject, and in the end I realised that the only way to create something of real honesty and value was to tell my own short story.

I set myself the simple task of writing down each of the feelings as they came, turning these words into images. The photographs in this ongoing series are memories of private moments, at times when I felt it most acutely, helping to make sense of this challenging and distressing situation.

The project was given a simple set of aesthetic rules: use only what props were readily available close to hand, maintain a fixed standard focal length throughout as if seen through one’s own eyes, and feature high ISO grain alongside sensitive post-production to ensure the process is as raw and honest as the emotions themselves.

It is my hope that by sharing my own short story, that others may find understanding and compassion in this work, recognising both the presence and absence of the delicate relationships we have with those around us, in what can be a very lonely and difficult time. As a gentle response to very sensitive and personal issues of mental health, this series quietly celebrates the fragile interpersonal relationships that hold us all together, when everything feels like it is falling apart.

In the last few days since I have begun sharing this work, already the kind and positive responses have been overwhelming. I would love to exhibit this work further throughout the UK and beyond, and it would be a real pleasure to share it with any editors of magazines, journals and similar publications who are featuring pieces related to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In particular, its place in our collective personal experiences of this worldwide pandemic.

In light of the current events that have plunged the world into turmoil, firstly over COVID-19, and now the protests in support of Black Lives Matter, I don’t claim to have any answers to any of these distressing and complicated issues. Instead I hope this works resonates with all who find themselves suffering in these tough times. No matter who or where you are, my thoughts are with you.

Lastly, I wish to dedicate this series to my kind and loving partner Rosie for her unwavering support during these difficult times. Lockdown in the UK was the first time the two of us have lived together, and her comfort and encouragement really does mean the world!

Thank you, Gavin.


See Gavin’s Shutter Hub portfolio here, and visit his website here.

All images © Gavin Smart



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