From My Window
We were all there, so we all know what it feels like. Some nations are still there: Lockdown. The irony of isolating, all of us, somehow together but apart...lingering. Shared feelings of distress, anxiety and sometimes, loneliness. Shared loneliness, a contradiction in itself - and somehow a reality, festering our society way before the pandemic came to shake us off our feet.
In Grácia, Barcelona, we can still taste the lockdown at the back of our throats. An unrelenting reminder that things are not the same. People are not the same. There is a before, and there is an after.
My neighbourhood is special. Once a town in and of itself just outside of Barcelona, it was engulfed as part of the city and swept under its wings. But Grácia’s charm and small-town feel is unyielding and has never been lost in Barcelona’s splendour.
Bang in the middle of Grácia, is my house. I live with my wife Remi and my daughter Naila. As a photographer and one with a special knack for street portraits, not being able to be out and about made me feel quite powerless. My life, like everyone else’s, was on pause. My days were monotonous, often starting with a coffee looking out of my windows, and often finished staring out of them again, restless and edgy. Like many, I was longing for the outside, for human interaction, for meaning.
One night, I was peering through the windows in my living room when I was struck by what I saw in the building across from mine. An elderly woman sitting bathed in almost the only bit of light to be seen in her building, open window, reading. Darkness surrounded her. There was an intensity to the scene. One can only wonder what emotions she was going through. Did she feel vulnerable? Alone? Resilient? Before I had time to process it, my hands were holding my camera, my index finger reaching the button and my gut was taking this photo. This image was the beginning of the next few weeks of my quarantine.
I started looking forward to spending my days peering out of my windows to look for snippets of life inside others’ homes, other families, different people with similar desires going through the same frustrations as me. I started feeling a connection with them, mirroring my reality to theirs, feeling the interwovenness of our lives, and of basic human needs. On their balconies, rooftops, gardens, apartments, they too were trying to keep a sense of normality and human connection, waiting for a sign, a green light to venture back into the world to reclaim a sense of liberty.
We didn’t get that green light until weeks later. But during this time, my quarantine was transformed. My 10-year-old daughter, Naila, responded to my new-found passion project with excitement: it became a joint mission, where we would fill our days being on the look-out for a glimpse into people’s lives during quarantine. Naila spent a lot of time running from one end of the house to the other, urging me to hurry up and snap up photographs before it was ‘too late’. Her child’s mind is perfect and quick to detect quirky and meaningful interactions.
Photography has always been my way to understand the world, and in turn, communicate my personal interpretation of it. It became, during this crisis, my way of taking back control of my own experiences and emotions, and allowed me to make sense of an almost unfathomable situation.