Quarantine Self-Portraits

A visual representation of the evolution of mental distress caused by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic

I’ve thought about photographing pain (physical and mental) in a series of self-portraits, but found it difficult to capture pain, in action, as it targets one’s own self, mind, and body. Thinking of pain and how we perceive ourselves and others through the filter of pain, and in particular through its most recent 2020 lens, I feel that the Coronavirus pandemic has unveiled a raw and real, individual and collective portrait of pain, and transformed many people’s lives…and stopped lives, too.

In the spirit of #2020challenge here’s a version of this transformation so far, as perceived through my own eyes:

January 2020:

As I might have mentioned in a previous post, the past years, and 2019 in particular, were tough, rough, exhausting, at times debilitating years for me, for personal reasons. And so, on the last day of 2019, with Lumi in my arms, I was hoping and wishing for a kinder 2020. Little did I know, little did we all know….

February 2020:

In February I was still going to the city for photography gigs, and also to check out places like Roosevelt Island and the Whitney Museum. On February 28 there was a strange feeling on the train to NYC and in air, everywhere. On February 29 that feeling became even stronger. The look on many people’s faces re-enforced that…calm before the incoming storm. Something terrible was about to happen, and it was imminent. (I miss the city….)

Also in February, I began working on my series of hand portraits and self-portraits. Hand gestures in activism movements was the original idea behind my new body of work, one that then has evolved, being also inspired by Covid-19.

March 2020:

Adjusting to the new reality. Visiting Liberty State Park before it closed to the public, because of Covid-19.

April 2020:

Life during the pandemic. Highlight of the day: going grocery shopping.

May 2020:

“I’ll Cover You” A self-portrait in black and white inspired by RENT, the musical, and also capturing my own version of #photographersinisolation

June 2020:

June 5th is HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day (HLTSAD). Having covered HIV and AIDS for almost twenty years, I’ve always been in awe of the Silence = Death poster–its story and history, its creators and its symbolism. Now I’m the proud owner of a Silence = Death mask and t-shirt. (thank you, ACT-UP NY!) So, wearing a mask during this Coronavirus pandemic can also help make a point, support a cause, express oneself.

July 2020:

One can make more than one point while wearing different kinds of masks. Here I am with a mask designed by Karla Rey, after being interviewed for the virtual special summer course, Making Meaning in a Pandemic. (btw, the mask fits great and is very comfortable; I edited the selfie: color, sepia, and b&w…I feel more like the b&w version these days)

August 2020:

At the beginning of this post I mentioned photographing pain. Here’s my current state…of mind, body, and soul.

September – December:

I can’t bring myself to imagine what next month or months will bring. Instead, these days I’m attempting to work on a few creative projects I desperately feel I need to work on, to keep myself sane, if nothing else. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more details soon.

Until then, stay safe and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina Oswald

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