When a major life-changing event occurs, it’s natural for a photographer to want to document it. Still, while the UK remains under control due to the coronavirus, photographers offer creative ways to chronicle the pandemic – including capturing photos of neighbors through their windows.
London photographer Christopher Fernandez captured some of his neighbor’s most intimate moments of isolation – courtesy of the subject, of course.
“The idea came from wanting to document the pandemic in general, but to decide which aspect of it was the hard part – especially given the government’s social distancing rules,” said Fernandez Standard.
“When the lockdown was announced, suddenly the people in your immediate vicinity were the only ones you would likely see for a while. The building in front of ours is quite close and every day you can see people going about their daily business, but all clearly trapped inside. It was a really strong picture of how we were together in our isolation and how strange it was to be in this position. “
From his apartment in East London, just off Brick Lane, Fernandez decided to put a sign on his window. The sign said, “Are you bored? I know I am. Professional photographer seeking to document your isolation from here. DM me if interested. “He also included his Instagram handle.
“To my surprise, in the 20 minutes since registration, I have already had two people across the street looking to be photographed,” said Fernandez.
“We were screaming in front of our windows opening the hours and showing up, it was really nice to see people ready to let a complete stranger shoot them in a strangely distant but intimate way. At any other time and I don’t think it would have happened the same way, but in this quarantine period, there is clearly a feeling of solidarity and desire for human connection that opened people to this. “
Fernandez was directing his subjects and lighting over the phone, while photographing with a zoom lens from his apartment and he says his subjects quickly adapted to the process.
He adds: “I think the fact that they were in their own space made it much easier. For each person, I would have a pretty good idea of what I wanted them to do, most of the time it was something they would probably do every day. Despite the staged images, I always wanted them to look natural, and after a while doing a certain action or movement / task, you tend to forget that you are even being photographed.
“Lighting was probably the most difficult thing because I had to work with everything people had at home. But again, I think it worked well in the fact that I wanted it to be as natural as possible. I also like this kind of restriction. Someone who says this is what you have, make it work. I think that’s when you can be the most creative. “
Since Fernandez had only recently moved into his apartment before the lock was put in place, he says that this project was his first time speaking and even seeing most of his neighbors – and allowed him to form a founding relationship with each.
“It was really nice, I get up normally and look out the window when I speak on the phone and from time to time I see one of the neighbors I photographed and I give them a little wave” he says said. “We have agreed that when all of this is finished and we can finish with it, we hope to be able to get together and really meet face to face for a drink. “
Fernandez has always been interested in capturing human experience, even in his landscape images, he says, he will find a way to integrate someone.
“When the human element is not attached, I am not as interested,” continues Fernandez.
“One of the first photographers I really admired was Philip-Lorca diCorcia. I think he was one of the first to blur the lines between directing and documentary photography. One of my favorite series was “Hustlers”. I remember being really confused about my own work and what I wanted to do, which way to go. I came across his work and it changed my vision of photography from that moment. Jeff Wall is another photographer I really like. I was not aware of this before I started this project, but he did a piece called “A view from an apartment”. I thought it was great. “
Fernandez is now selling prints from the series with 100 percent of the profits going to the NHS and is also working on a book in the series, with a percentage of the profits from that also going to the NHS. He is also looking for more subjects of all ages across London who are happy to be photographed through their windows. The plan is to travel only by bike at night to avoid others and it would have to be people in the apartments on the ground floor.
“I’ve always felt a little guilty that my job is to take photos when there are people who save lives and make an incredible difference. So I think if I can at least create images that may inform and entertain people, I’m happy with that. “
If you are interested in participating in the project, contact Christopher via his Instagram @chrisfernhello or his website. You can find out more about the project here, nhs.christopherfernandez.com