COVID-19 Case Study: Theo McInnes

Image shows a black and white full body portrait of two people stood beside each other in a park. They are wearing fencing uniform, including masks covering their faces, and holding épées.

Our COVID-19 Case Studies explore the different ways the photographic community is working and staying connected through the pandemic. If you would like to submit a Case Study get in touch via for more information.


I’m Theo, a photojournalist and portrait photographer living and working in London. With my roots in photojournalism I've always been interested in photographing people and the different ways in which they express themselves. I work for a number of global media publications with work published in such magazines as Huck, Vice, Society Magazine, The BJP and The Observer, as well as work in my portfolio for the likes of Nike, Amazon, Facebook, Talisker and more.

With my personal work, whilst still shooting documentary style stories, I've recently been dedicating my time to an increasing amount of portraiture, trying to incorporate my own stylised approach which has been developed through my reportage stories and assignments.


How are you adapting your work during the pandemic? 

Throughout the first pandemic my work, other than photojournalism, slowed down considerably - more considered portrait shoots and commercial briefs all but dried up. The extra time I had gave me an opportunity to shoot some new personal work, which was great. Sometimes when you’re really busy it’s hard to find time to do the things and the photography that really make you tick and that you are passionate about. I initially shot my first lockdown project Kennington Oasis when lockdown was a bit more extreme back in April 2020. The series was created on my daily walks to my local park. They stood out to me as these amazing spaces where life seemed to converge; little centres of bubbling activity where people would go to stretch their legs or breath some fresh air when everything else outside the park was like ghost town.

Are there any working methods that you envisage keeping once the lockdown is over? 

I love to shoot on medium format film as often as I can, working on Kennington Oasis gave me the opportunity to do this. With all the labs closed I decided to shoot the project on black and white film and develop in my kitchen sink and scan in the negs at home. For me there is something much more rewarding and enjoyable about shooting on film - especially when you can get stuck in to the developing process yourself.

Has the new context inspired you to try anything innovative that you haven’t tried before? If so, what? 

When lockdown started to ease a bit, I decided to get involved in a project with a slightly larger scope - on Pigeon Fancying. Work was picking up again but was still quieter than usual. The extra time I had meant that I could pour a lot of effort into producing the project and getting some amazing access. With this project I also learnt two new skills, both of which I have wanted to do for a long time. I shot the project on medium format colour film and with the images I learnt how to hand print in the dark room - it’s a really incredible process and can really make your work leap off the page. Secondly, with a close friend of mine who’s a film maker, I made a documentary about these pigeon fanciers that I was spending time with.

How are you coping? 

I guess the pandemic and constant lockdowns are partly responsible for helping me get these things done - it gave me some time to think about my practice and what I want to achieve with my photography, not just on things I get commissioned to do. I look back on last year and, while it was rubbish, I'm incredibly happy that I used the extra time I had to develop new skills and now have some great bodies of work to show for it.


See more from Theo on his website and social media @theomcinnes


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