While Tensions Flared, We Were
Since early March, I haven’t left the solitary space of my apartment except to walk across Victory Boulevard and into Silver Lake Park. Its expanse of verdant land welcomes picnicking, soccer, jogging, fishing, and commune with nature. In the time of the virus, people of all stripes and colors have arrived to find peace of mind.
When I think about it, the shelter-at-home edict was not a drastic lifestyle change. Photographers are often in solitude while finding a zone to make pictures. Aloneness becomes something of a routine, a mantra of delving in while filtering out.
The virus was decimating northern Italy — a warning that the US was only a matter of weeks away from a similar fate. Staying on top of the news, taking in megadoses of pertinent information acted like a preemptive prescription.
For a moment.
Until the anxiety crept in and took over. Like a right hook to the temple.
Suddenly, being alone in the time of Covid-19 dissolved into a state of terror. Wooziness, pulsations, temperature fluctuations, no appetite, the shakes…all in an indeterminate context. Was it all mental? The intake of news was shut down, replaced with daily doses of kindness from caring people.
The world's collective mindset was shifted into a new model, a fragmented pattern, a map of compensation. Virtual interactions via video conferencing; navigating real space with suspicion and protection; a heightened attention for those becoming ill or dying.
In the days of early April, I only wished a return to self instead of a man submerged in doubt. Pacing in my studio, I often stared out to the street from the same windows that only a few years earlier became the conduit for “Indiscipline,” a steady source of street photos made from a limited perspective. It was a voluntary obsession to listen, look, and find a sudden interaction.
That same attention was reignited with Covid-19 lockdown. There was little choice but to look again, to witness this new landscape of masked characters outside my windows.
As well, toting the camera outdoors became a necessary exercise. The early spring photos in Silver Lake Park were about me coping and staying afloat. As more people donned masks and sat apart on benches, an eerie sense of uncertainty marked myriad faces. Each encounter through the lens allowed a momentary sense of relief. Isolated we were, yet part of the same whole.
Gradually, as the anxiety subsided over the next few weeks, shooting from my window and in the park coalesced into a more balanced and persistent effort. It was evident by June that the virus threat was less intense while the overarching tenor of the police protests filtered through the air. The growing body of photos are a record of the many folks who flocked to that green space for personal respite and a way to make sense of a world turning on its head. Their identities and stories are fluid, a collective effort to remain whole.
The essay is in two sections: a. "Separated But Equal," selections from Silver Lake Park , and b. “Masquerading,” pictures from my window.