How Strange It Is
I started taking these photographs as motivation to leave the house during days where I would work from home, recently going freelance in digital marketing and initially struggling a little with the screen-based nature of the job. Once I got started I'd end up in front of the computer for like 6 - 12 hours, moving only to boil the kettle and eat. These images were all taken during breaks from this virtual environment where I would walk as aimlessly as I could, relishing the sensory particularity of being outside, of movement, and observation.
In recent weeks and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic this work has taken on a new significance. I processed the majority of this the day before Stills (and most other institutions) closed their doors to the public, and so looking at these images has been an activity with the added claustrophobia of lock-down. I can't help but see these images differently now and they strike me as almost prophetic - like somehow I was preparing for this allocated outdoors time all along - there are no crowds, they hold some kind of weight to them (a tension somewhere) and even though these are city shots, there features only one solitary figure and a shadow. I didn't shoot these images with quarantine in mind and it spooks me to look at them now that the streets are empty.
On an unrelated but contributory note, I'm currently reading How The Dead Live (Will Self), a story with a dead protagonist. It's perhaps not the best idea for a quarantine read but certainly some of the descriptions of walking as a ghost seem significant - 'How strange it is never really to be able to touch another'. As I go on my nightly walk (post 11pm - the least chance of dodging people in the street) I'm struck by how still everything is, and how quiet. I've never noticed my own footsteps before in the city but of course they were always there. It's a funny thing to stay indoors and different entirely when it's not your choice: the hyper-sensitivity upon leaving, how time seems both slow and fast at the same time. You repeat the same actions and feel no more certain of your purpose. It's kinda easy to feel like a ghost when everything seems so unreal.
I see this as work-in-progress (or perhaps a draft?) because this is such an extraordinary moment; nothing can really feel finished or satisfying during a global pandemic and obviously all this extra time is an ideal moment to self-scrutinise. Fundamentally it is the relationship between time and photography that makes these pictures interesting to me, and the changing context of photographs in light of our respective environments. I took these photos to get out of the house, and now I all I can do is think about them from inside. As always, it's a chance to be introspective; and as always, I don't think I've quite figured it out yet.