LOOKING OUT FROM WITHIN, reflection on isolation

Julia Fullerton-batten

2020 - Ongoing

City of London, England, United Kingdom

Time stands still for most of us. It is a sensitive time, we all feel vulnerable and anxious. During the days prior to the pandemic I was ultra-busy planning a photographic shoot with a large team of people, assistants, stylists, hair and make-up team, prop stylists, set designers etc. and was in-line for a couple of jobs, suddenly everything stopped. The assignments were cancelled and I had to postpone my project two days before the shoot as the risk appeared too great.

I felt numb but I knew that I couldn’t stand around and do nothing, I decided to document today’s existence as lived now by many people. I chose to capture them in their lockdown isolation, effectively imprisoned behind the windows of their homes looking out onto a different desolate world. I advertised my idea via social media and the local press in my home area of West London. The response was enormous. I even got responses from people living outside London expressing interest in taking part. For the past few weeks, every three days or so, I have photographed people in my area in self-isolation at home. People participate so enthusiastically that I feel I am giving them something to look forward to and break the monotony of their current existence.

Once somebody expresses interest to participate we make contact via email and phone to discuss details of the shoot and ideas for clothing as well as to fix a date and time for the set up. I shoot in the evening for the twilight feel, Thursdays are special as I can join with them in our clapping tribute to our precious NHS. I recce their home earlier in the day to get an idea of the setting, angles, etc. I restrict all journeys and times to stay within the Government guidelines. No physical contact is made. They stand at their windows and we communicate through the window with hand signals or by phone. Everything is discussed prior the shoot; the type of masks and wardrobe that can be anything from nightgowns to funky or formal dress worn especially for the photoshoot. My twelve-year old son Finn helps me carry the lighting. We set it up and a few poses later the shoot is over. I also interview each person I photograph in an informal way.

This might only be a mini-project but in my eyes a very important one for posterity. It is helping to keep me sane in these exceptional and disturbing times. At the same time, I find it extremely rewarding. I am enjoying meeting people who, without doubt, I would never ever have met before. They cover the entire spectrum of society and occupations which, in itself, has been a fascination to me. I am also re-learning how to take pictures in a simpler way without a large crew! I have not yet decided what to do with the resulting images but whatever it will be it will provide an intimate insight into the lives of all those who will have taken part during this macabre time.

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