Thriving in Place: Marsha Guggenheim - Elliot
Elliott, from the series At Home: Portraits of Sheltering in Place
Framed 20 x 13 5/8
Digital Photography, Archival Pigment Print, printed on Canson Platine Fibre Rag
In March, 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, I was inspired to document how people were surviving in this time of isolation. My interest was to make environmental portraits of people at home. Video conferencing technology offered a way to photograph people safely. I used a full-frame SLR camera and a cable release to photograph subjects during our Zoom conversations. Working this way created unique images; color and resolution were dependent on the subject’s bandwidth and there was no option for cropping or altering the image. Keeping the green dot on the screen’s bezel and “discussion box” in the picture gave the series authenticity and continuity.
For each shoot, I asked my subjects to keep their environment as-is, presenting themselves as they normally live. To my surprise, very few heeded my instructions. When we met online, they were well-dressed and their homes were tidy. They had curated the presentation of their personal space. In response, I encouraged them to move to another location in their home, remove their “virtual background” or I’d wait and chat while they relaxed and settled into the session.
Embedded in this work are the conversations exchanged. Our time together provided an opportunity to connect and, for a moment, move away from the anxiety of the times. One portrait subject, Joseph, asked me to schedule his shoot a week out, so that as he said, “This will give me something to look forward to.” For many, being photographed this way provided a much needed moment of contact in an uncertain time.