“Some days are bearable. Some days are difficult. I try to think positive thoughts about what our world can learn from this pandemic,” says Deborah Elenter from Uruguay, who took this image in her backyard. (Deborah Elenter)
“Some days are bearable. Some days are difficult. I try to think positive thoughts about what our world can learn from this pandemic,” says Deborah Elenter from Uruguay, who took this image in her backyard. (Deborah Elenter)

Through the looking glass: Women photographers capture life in lockdown

A collaborative project called The Journal is showcasing work by over 400 women from around the world. Their snapshots of the pandemic era are moving, questioning, explorative.
By Riddhi Doshi
UPDATED ON MAY 12, 2021 04:42 PM IST

Fractured identities, neglected haunts, children escaping into their imaginations and loved ones connecting in new ways — these are some of the moments captured and preserved by The Journal, a collective project that aims to showcase work created by women photographers in the pandemic.

The project was launched in March 2020 by photographers Charlotte Schmitz from Germany and Hannah Yoon of the US. “In the early days of the pandemic it was evident that many of us photographers were losing income opportunities, many living isolated, and that it disproportionately affected women in the industry,” Schmitz says.

Women in general are underrepresented in the field, she adds. “The pandemic has only heightened the imbalance. Media outlets around the world got decimated, many have smaller budgets than before. Additionally, women often shoulder the main responsibility for family-related work at home in the pandemic and can’t work as much as before.”

More than 400 women from over 75 countries have applied to be part of The Journal’s lockdown project. These artists have been split up into groups within which they collaborate, offer feedback on each other’s work, and decide which images should be uploaded to the Instagram page @thejournal_collective, which serves as an online gallery.

“We turned the cameras on ourselves, our families, on intimate moments and private spaces,” Schmitz says, “focusing on the collective personal, emotional and psychological experiences during this crisis.”

SELECTED SNAPSHOTS

Sahiba Chawdhary’s visual ode to her sister, “backbone of my existence”. (Sahiba Chawdhary)
Sahiba Chawdhary’s visual ode to her sister, “backbone of my existence”. (Sahiba Chawdhary)

Sahiba Chawdhary (@sahiba_chawdhary), 27, from Delhi submitted a double exposure of her sister Simran, 23, out on an evening walk. The siblings started living together again a year ago, after have lived in different cities for over a decade. “We were each other’s constants, and we learnt how to cope with a difficult time. It’s rather interesting how two siblings can reunite and reconnect as they find each other after years of living apart. It was like we were made to catch up on lost time,” Chawdhary says.

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Deborah Elenter (@deborah_elenter), 47, from Uruguay, says she spent the lockdown trying to reflect, observe. “I started photographing my family in its intimacy, my children in their daily at-home life. I photographed my backyard on a quasi-rainy day (see top photo). I went looking for what had always been there, but never actually seen. And there was rain, and there was sunlight. There were feelings of sorrow, but there was also hope,” she says.

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“I began to photograph myself... trace my feelings and thoughts,” says Marzena Skubatz.
“I began to photograph myself... trace my feelings and thoughts,” says Marzena Skubatz.

Marzena Skubatz (@marzenaskubatz), 42, of Germany, says that during her self-isolation, she tried to understand what was happening “around me and inside me”. “I began to photograph myself, which helped me document the days in lockdowns and trace my feelings and thoughts and organise them. During that process, photography became a tool for me to hold on to this contradictory and difficult time and to be able to grasp it.”

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A representation of mental health during the pandemic, by Ranita Roy.
A representation of mental health during the pandemic, by Ranita Roy.

Ranita Roy (@ranita3roy), 27, from Kolkata, says: “Stuck at home in the first lockdown, I felt depressed. This image is a representation of poor mental health and a desperate plea for the end of the pandemic.”

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“After an entire year without seeing my family, I was able to get vaccinated and visit my family in Puerto Rico,” says Lina Collado.
“After an entire year without seeing my family, I was able to get vaccinated and visit my family in Puerto Rico,” says Lina Collado.

Lina Collado (@lina_collado), 39, from Puerto Rico, has been working in the US. “This photograph was taken during my trip home this past March,” she says. “It was my first trip back in over a year. I had been unable to see my parents, my brothers, my entire immediate family, or my beautiful home that I usually visit three or four times a year. When I took this photo, my cousin, aunt, mother and I had decided to create an at-home beauty parlour. My cousin dyed my mother’s hair and I cut it. It was the first time the four of us spent time together since January 7, 2020. I took this photo with the desire to have this moment permanently documented, to remember.”

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Analia Cid’s picture shows her partner, their cat and his newborn nephew and godson. (Analia Cid)
Analia Cid’s picture shows her partner, their cat and his newborn nephew and godson. (Analia Cid)

Analia Cid (@analia.cid), 31, from Argentina, captured her partner Agustín, their cat and his newborn nephew and godson Milo. “Agustin has lived with a heart condition that puts him in the high-risk group for Covid-19. During the first lockdown in Argentina, we were very careful; anything could represent a danger to his health. But on his birthday, in October, his sister and Milo visited us,” Cid says. “In the picture, he is holding Milo while our baby cat Amaranta sleeps in his lap. I wanted to express the tenderness and vulnerability of the moment. Our societies tend to erase ways of living healthier masculinities from the public view and I think that as photographers, it is our job to show that this is possible. I was also thinking on how much I love these three.”

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Musician Pholo Kimbuende cools off in the James River in Richmond, Virginia. (Kate Warren)
Musician Pholo Kimbuende cools off in the James River in Richmond, Virginia. (Kate Warren)

Kate Warren (@gokateshoot), 32, from the US, took her image while on a trip through Virginia. “After being apart for six months during the pandemic, my partner Pholo Kimbuende and I were summer road-tripping through Virginia and stopped to cool off at a local swimming spot in the James River,” she says. “Titled Whisper My Sins to Me, it explores racial trauma, representation and reconciliation within my interracial relationship, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

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(Claudia Leisinger)
(Claudia Leisinger)

Claudia Leisinger (@claudialeisinger), 47, from the UK says: “My daughter’s, thick, thigh-length hair has a presence, a character that is tangible in this picture. It looks and behaves like the tentacles of an octopus and I love how she seems to enjoy this.” The photograph Leisinger submitted is an invitation to enjoy and embrace parts of ourselves that at times seem uncontrollable, she adds.

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(Samyukta Lakshmi)
(Samyukta Lakshmi)

Samyukta Lakshmi (@samlaks), 42, from Bengaluru, says: “This was taken during the first wave. I had started going out on hikes with a small group of friends. It was nice to escape, get out of the city, get some fresh air, soak up all the nature. Earlier going out with friends meant meeting at restaurants, movie theatres, each other’s homes. In the pandemic I found a new way of meeting friends and a new way of seeing the city. In fact, I think I am re-seeing everything — the way light falls at different spots in my house at different times, different new things about my neighbourhood.”

(This story has been corrected to reflect that Hannah Yoon is based in the US)

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