Photography

COVID-19 Isolation Photo Series

The photographer offering snapshots into the lives of London's self-isolating population.

If you’ve found yourself isolating at home and happen to be living in a city, the chances are you’ve spent a lot of time looking out of your windows, likely craving time outside with pals. It’s also probable that you’ve seen some more of your neighbors than you’re used to.

Photographer Christopher Fernandez decided to use this to his advantage. Determined not to let self-isolation impact his creative output, he thought of ways in which he’d still be able to photograph people whilst in the confines of his own home. Equipped with just a pen, some paper and a creative outlook, he made contact with individuals living opposite him in order to direct a shoot from afar. The results are images that capture the nation-wide mood of self-isolation, and offer a snapshot into the lives of those isolating in the capital. 

How are you? What are you doing to stay entertained in isolation?

With all the craziness of the virus and being freelance with no work coming in for the foreseeable future I’m actually staying strangely optimistic. Things can always be worse and I’m just thankful that myself and the people closest to me are in good health. Up until a few days ago I had been working on this project so that was keeping me busy. Aside from that I have been pretty much watching movies back to back. This morning I watched Mandy with my flatmate. Quite an intense film for breakfast but the cinematography and lighting are class. Very underrated. 

What are your top tips for staying creative during this time of quarantine?

I find normally when I’m restricted, be it budget, equipment or a pandemic, it actually helps in a way. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got, then the ideas start flying. I also do a lot of research into different directors, photographers, musicians, and books. Normally if I watch something, or see a great series of images it gets me really hyped to try and create my own. I think if you’re surrounded by a lot of creative people that helps a lot too. It gives you a chance to bounce ideas of each-other, chat things through and figure out what ideas work or not. 

Give me a bit of background to the photo-series. Where did the idea come from?

Well I was frustrated with being quarantined and I kept thinking how surreal all this was and that it was crazy to be living through it. I felt I really had to make some pictures to document the time but obviously had the restriction of staying inside which made me think that everyone else is doing the same. The building opposite us is relatively close and I’d always noticed people going about their day-to-day but now quite obviously all isolating too. I spoke to my flatmate about what he thought about trying to reach the neighbours with a sign on my window, I came really close to sacking it off when he said –  “You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.” Kind of felt like that ‘your day at a glance’ app. Whatever, it worked.

I made the sign, it read – “Bored? I know I am. Professional photographer wanting to document your isolation from over here. DM me if interested” and then my instagram handle. Before I put the sign up I thought that people are either going to see this and get in touch or they will see it and think I’m weird and proceed to shut their blinds for the fear that I’m out there, waiting.

Luckily the former happened and within an hour 3 people had got in touch. I was very surprised at how open and willing everyone was to let a complete stranger shoot them in this weirdly distant but intimate way. Any other time and I don’t think this would have turned out the same way. In this period of quarantine there was clearly a sense of solidarity and desire for human connection that opened people up to it. Potentially boredom also.

Taking the pictures I would call each person and have to try and direct the shot and lighting as best I could over the phone. It was a challenge but turned out to be a really fun collaborative experience and I hope when this is all over I’ll be able to meet them face to face.

What do you know about the people in the pictures?

They all have various jobs, one is a photographer, another is an account manager, a journalist and a salesman. All from around Europe. All young professionals. 

What are you hoping that people take away from the images?

I always feel a bit guilty that my job is to take pictures, and what I mean by that is I’m not exactly saving peoples lives. An event like this emphasises that feeling, so I enjoy this kind of work because I like to think if you can at least create something to inform people or that’s entertaining or of some interest then maybe that’s enough. I’d be happy if anyone took anything away from them to be honest. I personally see them from a documentary perspective and maybe someone in the future will use them as reference of this surreal time.

How do you plan on developing the series further?

I’ve put up a post up about continuing the project further afield around London. The plan is to create a book at the end of it and give some of the proceeds to the NHS.

If people would like to see the behind-the-scenes footage of Christopher creating the imagery, head over to his Instagram page to watch the story highlight which details his journey to creating the photographic series.

9 April 2020