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 campaign, shot by Charlie Clift and commissioned by M&S Saatchi, aims to encourage people across the country to take part in the Census – an important survey taking place every 10 years, enabling the government to get an honest picture of every household in England and Wales – helping to guide fair decisions about how public funding is used.

For Charlie, this was an opportunity to do something he loves: Meet people and capture their stories.

The challenge and logistics of finding and contacting the right mix of ethnicities and different communities was immense, but our super-producer Morgan Evans lit up her network of contacts all over the country, finding people to photograph from Essex to Exmoor, and Penzance to Penarth. Farmers, shop owners, teachers, students, fans, activists, community leaders and families were contacted.  A road trip around the country was scheduled, maps pinned and time tables drawn.

In Covid times nothing is simple. We had to be certain we were keeping everyone safe. Working in as small a production bubble as we could, we hit the road – PPE at all times, temperature checks twice a day, always cleaning and washing. Although it was just three people in a van, we had everything we needed to create images on the go – photographer, assistant and producer, a portable set of lights, and large supply of snacks. We photographed entirely outside, come rain or shine, capturing the reality of Britain, all the while making sure we kept everyone we met safe and secure.

Charlie Clift:  ” I like to think of the resulting image library as an archive of the nation, a snapshot of Britain in the strangest of years ”

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Charlie Clift:
The Census