COVID-19 shutdown laid bare, as captured by Katoomba photographer Dean Sewell

Katoomba photographer Dean Sewell has been documenting the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown in the Blue Mountains and Sydney.

From the first day of the official lockdown on March 23, Sewell described the Sydney CBD as "quite barren." The forecourt of the Opera House, Martin Place and Mrs Macquarie's Chair, once bustling with people, was eerily quiet.

"The main people in the CBD were shoppers visiting still open shops like Gucci and Louis Vuitton," he said. "I looked in the doorways and people were in masks."

The award-winning photographer has captured drive-through COVID-19 testing stations and portraits of people living in lockdown.

"What I have seen is quite a disparity between the Upper Mountains and the Eastern Beaches," he said. "The sense of entitlement and privilege that exists on the eastern (suburbs) beaches was really visible."

Three weeks after people had been instructed to stay home Sewell was in the eastern suburbs on a photo shoot for the Sydney Morning Herald. He saw crowded beaches at Clovelly and Gordon Bay, and car parks, closed to prevent people congregating, being used for family picnics.

"From a documentary perspective, what's important is to show how our society dealt with it [the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing requirements]. Were they paying attention?" the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize-winning photographer said.

In the Mountains, he hasn't observed large groups of people gathering, although he has seen people ignoring barriers at Echo Point.

On Katoomba Street, he captured Sian Young, the owner of Aunty Ed's Restaurant, demonstrating responsible social distancing three days out from the official lockdown date, as she talked with her colleague, sitting a couple of metres apart on the footpath.

In Katoomba, many hotels are shuttered and people are renovating.

"People are using the time to spruce up, not only commercial establishments but private too," said Sewell.

The absence of tourists and day trippers is also particularly visible around Katoomba's popular clifftop walks and lookouts.

The photographer shot most of his pictures in monochrome.

"By stripping back colour, the viewer is less taken by the colour properties and has the ability to focus on the issue at hand," he said.

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