A VIRTUAL, VISUAL AND AUDITORY GALLERY EXPERIENCE BY NADIA MELI, SHOWCASING IMAGES TAKEN ON ZOOM DURING LOCKDOWN 2020.
When the Coronavirus news began taking over the world at the beginning of 2020 and one country after the other went into lockdown I became more and more paralysed. My inbox filled up with cancellations and anxiety creeped in, slowly and silently. I read of people dying. I am far away from my family. I suddenly felt the weight of living alone. I felt useless, empty and uninspired.
As a photographer I could not bare the thought of not photographing people for the next however many months. It almost physically hurt imagining that.
I feel so lucky to have a job I can’t imagine living without.
In march 2020 my client Martina was supposed to come to England for her photoshoot. Then Italy went into lockdown. So she asked me if we could shoot online instead? And my brain started thinking in colour again.
Of course. Why not shoot anyway? Something new was born inside of me.
On Instagram I put out a call for volunteers and received hundreds of messages. After the first few shoots I had the idea of turning this into something more. And since so many people were interested I asked people to donate to Choose Love in exchange for an online portrait.
On the 28th of March 2020, exactly a year ago, I took the first online portrait and I didn’t stop until June 2020.
The topic of loneliness and belonging has always been a red thread running through my life. Growing up as an immigrant I never felt either or. Never felt really at home anywhere. I’ve felt ‘alone together’ in rooms with other people, in countries and places I’ve lived, with others – but on the fringes. I was never able to claim one country, one nationality “mine”.
A year ago, along with the rest of the world, I found myself once again, alone but together.
Disconnected but connected.
In 2020, connection became the most important thing. The lack of it for some, the sudden abundance of it for others.
Despite being in the same storm, we were all sitting in different boats, but the fact remained – a very unique experience connected all of us. It fascinated me that the world was going through this at the same time and I was curious how people were experiencing lockdown and how they were feeling. Suddenly there was this one thing that made us relate to each other – no matter who we were, where we lived.
Photography for me is a door. This project is a door.
I am lucky when people let me in, for 5 minutes or an hour, and a connection is born.
That is why I left my zoom window on each image as well and you see two people in the photo. Normally you don’t see the photographer in a photograph – but I wanted that layer of connection, for the first time, to be visible as well.
I didn’t create these images simply to recreate a normal photoshoot or to do something artistic – I created this to remember. When I was putting the exhibition together a lot of the people you will see here told me that the feelings from the very beginning of lockdown had already faded and they almost forgot what it was like until they had to record them for me.
That is why this exists. Why I am a photographer.
I wanted more than ‘online fashion shoots’ – I wanted the person I was meeting to share their voice. To remember.
So I asked everyone I got to photograph two questions:
Are you scared of anything right now?
Where do you find joy?
Some of the answers you will find here.
There are not enough words to thank each and everyone of the beautiful souls that volunteered for this, that donated their money to Choose Love, that spent time chatting to me and let me into their homes and lives.
A special thank you to Bianca, my beautiful friend who planted the seed for this exhibition to happen. She told me to build my own door. Here it is.
This project was completely free of charge. If you enjoy this and are able to contribute to my work, thank you ♥︎
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