I spoke to ten photographers about how they’re making magic during confinement, what makes them connect (and unplug), the challenges and opportunities that arise from stepping out of their comfort zones, working, being creative, and everyday life during a pandemic. Some shared personal anecdotes or talked about appreciating sunsets, while others spoke of how they got to know themselves through self-portraits from a lack of models. Here’s how visual artists have been making the best of their circumstances during quarantine.
José Manuel Rodríguez A
José Manuel, graphic designer, producer, and photographer, talked to me about photographing the elements in his day-to-day life – those objects that have been locked up along with him from the very beginning. About creating, adapting, and innovating he shares his return to other media forms: “I went back to the starting point: pencils, crayons, sheets of paper, and paint. I felt a need to let what I had inside out and, not being able to do so in the way I am accustomed, I had to go back to basics. I realized there are different tools, methods, and ways to create, experiment, play, complement, and intervene.” In José Manuel’s pictures we see self-portraits, food, paintings, and sketches – his inner-self speaking in a visual way.
Ivonne Arceo, photographer and filmmaker, spoke to me a little about the immeasurable expectations we sometimes tie ourselves to. “The pressure to be productive all the time and feel that you are doing something with your life is very present. It is also okay to take time to sit down and read or not do anything for a while.” She has found moments of happiness by trying new things like filling up a kiddie pool and basking in the sun or by having contact with nature. About her self-portrait, she says: “This picture was a process for me. It was easy for me to contemplate this image from the outside, but I had to push myself to try and see it from a different perspective.”
Carolina, filmmaker and founder of the audiovisual studio Hijos del Maguey, discovered that spatial limitations were her greatest challenge. She did not believe that she would find interesting spaces in her apartment. Caro started to draw and paint (with the idea of learning to tattoo), and when I asked about stepping out of her comfort zone, she said: “I learned acceptance. I reflected upon past events I didn’t fully understand and with a bit of patience, I was able to decipher them. Caro began to intervene in her 35mm analog pictures with affirmations. “Being casual pictures from everyday life, I wanted to place these affirmations in my everydayness, hoping that someone that needs to hear these messages will read them and can use them as a guide to whatever they’re searching for.”
Daniela, a passionate writer and documentary photographer, starts off by talking about time saying, “creatives used to complain a lot about their lack of time, but at moments like these, we get anxious about the fact that time is what we have the most of (how ironic).” She tells me about stepping out of her comfort zone and states: “why leave our creative mind stagnant and bored? There’s nothing better than losing the fear to make our ideas reality and, more than anything, believing in ourselves and taking risks.” Daniela is not afraid to mess up; she considers fearlessness as the key to leading a creative life.
Juan is a director of photography and an avid fan of portraying nature and the sky. He begins by telling me the story of his quarantine: how he went from waking up excited with all the time he had, to uninspired and accumulating thousands of ideas, to appreciating “the little things in life such as looking up at the sky.” One day, Juan took his dog for a walk, and noticed an intense orange color reflected on his cellphone. “After spending many days locked up under the cold lighting of my house’s light bulbs, that warmth made me feel normal again,” he shares. “Mérida has given me the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen and thanks to them, I felt inspired to create again.”
Nora is a photographer focused on capturing images of families, children, and exteriors at unique moments in time. The quarantine has implied a lack of her usual subjects, so she began to photograph her own children more often than before. “This picture that I took of my 14-year-old daughter comes from reflecting on how beautiful and important the little things are. We are the creators of special moments and in hard times it’s so important to keep the joy!”
Iván has been photographing the streets of Mérida’s Centro for his project “Meridanos.” The pandemic initially stopped him from going outside, “but soon I felt the urgent need to get back to the streets and document the new normal under truly historical circumstances,” he mentions. After taking this picture of a Trovador, Iván tells me that it shows “the challenge that many people face when their way of making a living depends on the influx of people on the streets.”
Ale, whose focus is editorial, portrait, and film photography, is fond of change. She doesn’t like to stay inside the box and stop moving forward, so she attempts to try something different every time the shutter clicks. This photograph in particular, which is not staged, was created during quarantine and is an experiment in search of unique types of narratives. Speaking of challenges the contingency has brought, Ale says: “I believe that’s what keeps me calm and connected – thinking about future projects but also trying to stay in the present and being thankful for everything I have now.”
Lashawn Vivas, founder of the audiovisual studio Ele Estudio, tells me a bit about the Rubik’s cube. “I know that today most people know how to solve a Rubik’s cube, but I’ve always found it very interesting.” One day while in his pool, he took it with him to the water. It summoned memories of a key – one that “could be used to travel through time, space, or open up a portal to a new world – maybe one without so much division and hate.”
“Being alone is not the same as feeling alone. I learned that recently,” Karla, fashion photographer and brand content creator, states. She tells me that knowing she is not alone and that the world keeps on turning (and she along with it) makes her feel like she is not wasting time. We talked about the challenges of working during the pandemic and she told me: “I knew I could not stay in my bed crying about all my lost projects. It was difficult to get up and realize I had to keep creating.” Breaking out of the shell, daring to show and say different things, and learning to appreciate what she had were key aspects in her creative process. “I realized I had never taken advantage of the sky view from my window, one that I have now fallen in love with. These moments won’t come back and they’re skies we won’t see again.”
For Paulina, music has helped her unplug and connect to what really matters. She has also started to learn more about gardening. “It’s a very enriching experience, even therapeutic you could say. I have enjoyed documenting the growth process and development of my plants through photography.” For her, these pictures tell stories about the places she has been and are a collection of what she loves the most.
Editorial by Greta Garrett
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