As of today, obligatory social distancing is three months old and going strong in Buenos Aires.
Without physical spaces dedicated to music and the arts, the cultural landscape looks very different than it did pre-Covid. Our weekly live music agenda, The Setlist, has turned into a live streaming agenda as musicians have taken to Instagram and YouTube as their go-to venues. We’ve talked to various artists, including animators and comic book illustrators, about their work in times of quarantine.
Naturally, some kinds of art are more suited for creation during a time like this. I can imagine science fiction writers finding inspiration in the paradigm shift we’re undergoing, since every news flash seems to spark an idea for a dystopian short story. Photographers, however, face quite a creative challenge when their possible subjects are reduced to people and things within or visible from their homes.
Photographer David Velandia is in his last year of studies at the Escuela de Fotografía Creativa Andy Goldstein. When it became apparent that social distancing measures were here to stay, he wondered how he could continue taking pictures and finish his degree without being able to leave the confines of his apartment.
“At the beginning I was thinking about what I’d do with photography and how I’d continue studying,” he said.
“But I’d always been interested in doing a photography project featuring my neighbors, especially after watching the Hitchcock movie Rear Window. It’s about a photographer bound to a wheelchair after an accident who starts spying on his neighbors, and what he uncovers.
I happen to be taking a documentary photography class, and we were allowed to pick any subject for a project we were assigned. Since I already had this idea, I decided to carry it out during quarantine.”
So David began to document his neighbors, on their balconies and patios, as they adjusted to the age of social distancing.
“At the beginning of the quarantine, I noticed a lot more people out on their balconies. I saw a lot of people I’d never seen before, living in apartments I had assumed were empty. As the quarantine went on, people stopped spending so much time on the balcony, I think because of the colder weather and people getting more used to their quarantine routines.”
“In the beginning I was nervous about the project, because I didn’t want to invade people’s privacy. I felt bad about taking this picture because he’s praying, which is something personal. I thought about changing the project, but it the end I kept going and after a few weeks everything flowed. This ended up being one of my favorite pictures.”
“This picture and the next one are from the same moment. I heard a girl screaming loudly and I started looking through the lens, not to take pictures but for a close-up. Suddenly everyone was out on their balconies looking in the same direction. It was pretty disturbing and I was worried about the girl, though I couldn’t tell what exactly was going on.”
“Balconies have become our greatest allies during quarantine. We never imagined these small spaces would be our only source of fresh air and the best place to exercise.”
“It makes me smile to see families spending time together, aside from the terrible circumstances which must be hard for parents to explain to their kids.”
Project #2: Self-portraits
David didn’t only focus on his neighbors. He also turned the camera back onto himself, channeling his Covid-related angst into a series of dreamy/nightmarish self-portraits.
“Every self-portrait in this series represents a fear or mood that I’ve experienced in quarantine. There were times when I felt that I couldn’t take being cooped up anymore. Having the same routine every day was driving me crazy. I was flipping through the TV channels too much, I was having trouble adjusting to online classes and focusing on my studies. My family is in Colombia, and being so far from them doesn’t help. I took these pictures for catharsis, as a way to let the bad energy out. Photography is the best way for me to express my emotions.”
A Final Q&A
Have you worked on any other photography projects while in quarantine?
“I also did a long-distance photo shoot with a friend in Colombia through Facetime. It was sort of an experiment but I like how they turned out.”
You can see this series on David’s Instagram, linked below.
What are your favorite ways to spend quarantine leisure time?
“Something I’ve always loved that I never had enough time for before is cooking. Two of my favorite recipes, which I’ve perfected while in quarantine, are garbanzo and lentil burgers.
I’ve also been watching a lot of movies. My favorites of the ones I’ve seen recently are Children of Men, The Revenant, Inception, American Beauty, and Burning.
To relax, I listen to guided meditation on YouTube.”
Whenever the day of reopening comes, what kind of non-quarantine photo shoot do you most look forward to carrying out?
“I really want to go to Biedma in the Chubut province to photograph a total solar eclipse. I don’t know if it’ll be possible to travel in December, but I won’t give up hope. “
You can find more of David’s photography on his Instagram.