'Sheila Solomons' print by Robert Speker with Sydmar Lodge Care Home
- Robert Speker
Print ‘Sheila Solomons’ reconstruction album cover by Robert Speker, 2020. Produced with Sydmar Lodge Care Home residents and staff during the first Covid-19 Lockdown in the UK. Copying an album cover by Elvis Presley, Sheila is shown three quarter-length in black and white, holding a walking stick in front of a brick wall. Lettering in pink and green to left and bottom. Printed at the size of a standard LP record sleeve.
This set of 12 Care Home Album Covers attracted significant media attention in July 2020 after being tweeted by photographer Robert Speker. Working as Activities Coordinator at Sydmar Lodge Care Home, North London, Speker collaborated with residents and staff to recreate a series of famous album covers. In each case the figures in the album photographs are replaced by a care home individual, and the artist’s name or album title are replaced with the new sitter’s name or a reference to the care home.
Sheila posed for this first photo in the series which Speker took on 14th June 2020. Speker explains that he, “had an idea in my mind that I wanted Sheila to recreate Elvis Presley's self-named debut album from 1956. In place of the guitar, I asked Sheila to use her walking stick, a playful reference to her version of air guitar. I wanted this image to be simple and hoped it would be enough to convey the Elvis pose, whilst capturing Sheila's personality. I only took four photos, and this turned out to be the easiest of all the photoshoots. After a quick edit to black and white, and crop, it was completed the same day.” Sheila also posed for a second album cover copying The Clash.
These first 12 album covers produced by Speker and care home contributors were developed into a charity calendar for the Alzheimer’s Society for 2021. Together they help to capture the particular experience of those living and working in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, which attracted wide media attention and public criticism for seeming to be ‘abandoned’ and for the extreme isolation imposed on residents, unable to see loved ones for many months. Equally, however, Speker’s joyful work demonstrates the creativity that flowered across society during the first lockdown, and the work by many artists to offer support – whether financial or emotional – to NHS staff, the wider public, and each other.