How our #LastNormalPhoto challenge travelled the world

It all started with a little request we made earlier this month.

We asked you to send us the last “normal” photo you had on your phone before coronavirus changed your life. Hundreds of you responded. We were overwhelmed.

On Saturday, we brought you 13 of those stories – from major sporting events to family gatherings to a wedding. We then invited more of you to share your photos online using the hashtag #lastnormalphoto.

Thanks largely to a tweet by journalist Robyn Vinter, it quickly became one of the top three most-used Twitter hashtags worldwide.

Among the tens of thousands of photos shared online, there are some common themes. Food, friendships, the utterly random events that make up our lives. Many people’s photos showed the last time they were with relatives, after lockdowns forced families apart.

Sue Clark’s last “normal” photo was at her daughter’s baby shower on 7 March. Her grandson Theo was born in late April.

The lockdown meant Sue was unable to see or support her daughter during the final weeks of her pregnancy, or to be close during what was a difficult birth.

“Luckily all turned out fine but this is a situation where as a mother your instinct is to be there – but unfortunately I felt I had to follow the rules,” she told the BBC.

Sue and her daughter are now arranging to meet at a distance in a park next week.

Social distancing rules mean group events may now feel like a distant memory, but lots of you shared photos of crowds in close proximity only a couple of months ago.

A lot (and we mean a lot) of the photos also showed people eating in restaurants and bars, or going to clubs or theatres – places that have been inaccessible for many of us for at least two months, and may remain so for some time.

Some found a photo of their workplace or university, looking back at a time before remote working was introduced to reduce the spread of the virus.

Olivia Simpson’s last “normal” photo was taken on a commute to university on 13 March.

She would normally meet friends in the library so they could work together, but like thousands of students across the UK, she is now continuing her studies alone at home.

Others had been anticipating big events before the new rules took effect. Several people shared photos of the dresses they bought for a prom that could not go ahead.

One of them was Emma Canzanese, 18. She chose her prom dress on 5 March – it made her feel confident in herself. But the prom was later cancelled because of coronavirus regulations in New Jersey.

“I’m happy I still bought it for any future occasion,” she said, “but it would have been amazing to roll up to prom and show off.”

Some joked about how abnormal their last “normal” photo was.

Dr Dani Rabaiotti, a scientist with the Zoological Society of London posed with a meerkat at London Zoo for her last photo.

The zoo has been closed to visitors since late March due to the coronavirus lockdown and staff say it now faces an uncertain future.

A friendly meerkat is not as abnormal, however, as a meal of fried chicken and donuts.

If you could go back to the start of the year and give yourself some pre-lockdown advice, knowing what was about to happen, what advice would that be?

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