Love has countless guises. It can be as cocooned as a couple’s intimacy, something only for them. Or it can be as big as love for a city or countryside — the sounds, rhythms, smells and exquisite details, such as how the sunlight falls in late afternoon. In all its forms, though, love defines us. It shapes our desires, decisions and aspirations.
The novel coronavirus pandemic is a thief. Among the things it snatches away are the connections that feed passion, contentment, belonging and all the other variations of love. Families are separated. Cities and towns are silenced. Places of worship are locked. Hospital quarantine rules keep a patient, desperately sick with the virus, from holding the hands of family members in one last moment together.
A harsh irony is this: The stay-at-home orders and the six-foot social distancing we are told will help keep us safe also limit the human interactions that some medical researchers believe are essential to our physical and mental health.
Through the deeply personal work of nine photographers and artists, we look at the universality of the sense of loneliness we are all feeling right now, no matter where and how we live. These photographers — in France, Japan, Brazil and Illinois published in part one, Morocco, Russia, Britain, New York and Massachusetts here — show us the importance of love and human connections in this time of confinement.
This story is part two of a two-part series. See part one.
Elena Anosova — Moscow
Elena Anosova, 36, lives in Moscow with two roommates, Olesya and Anastasia. Since the middle of March, they have been self-isolating together with Elena’s life potentially at stake. “I have a heart condition,” said Elena, a photographer, artist and curator. “Everyone around me is being very careful to help me stay healthy during these days.”
The three women live in the city center, but they have seldom left the security of their three-bedroom apartment. All of them are working from home. Olesya, 39, misses going skiing or even biking. “My bike stands sadly in a corner,” she said. “But there’s still yoga practice, which is not too bad.” Anastasia, 36, a photo editor for an online magazine, has been secluded since March 17, away from her family and from her boyfriend, who, as a Belarusan, can’t reach Moscow under travel restrictions. “Embrace is crucial in situations like this; I want to hug my dearest and nearest.”
As for Elena, she misses nature most: the Siberian forests and the region around Lake Baikal. “But even trees in the park are [out of reach] — the park is closed. I want to touch spring at least in this concrete jungle.” Instead, she is documenting her life within the walls of her apartment. “This is a story about friendship, life and dreams,” she said, “about the miracle which is probably somewhere around the corner.”
Tori Ferenc — London
“It was supposed to be such a beautiful year,” said London-based photographer Tori Ferenc, who has been self-isolating with her husband for the past three weeks. “I have made so many plans for 2020 — a photographic project in Poland, printing my first book, visiting family for Easter, a festival in Amsterdam. And, of course, the trip my husband and I have been waiting for since the wedding last summer — our honeymoon in Iceland.”
With London on lockdown, “it seems like we are living in the alternate dimension,” she said. “Now, it feels like the only things we can plan are daily walks in the nearby park or rare visits to the supermarket. I am trying not to bring myself down too much, though, and to find some positive aspects of this new reality. I finally have time to focus on my hobbies, catch up on books and films, plant some herbs. But the best of all, I get to spend this time with my husband, Maciek. I would be much more anxious if it wasn’t for him.”
Over the past week, Tori, 30, has been photographing their daily lives at home. “I believe it’s important to document our life together in moments like this, no matter how mundane or insignificant they might seem,” she said. “Taking pictures in these strange times gives me hope for the future. If we can survive a pandemic, we can survive anything.”
Hannah Reyes Morales — Norfolk County, Mass.
“When the Philippine government announced that Manila would go on lockdown to prevent the spread of covid-19, my husband and I made the difficult choice to fly to America,” said Hannah Reyes Morales, 29, born in the Philippines. “As the pandemic disrupted life across the globe, we looked at our options for sheltering in place. Like many others, the choices were troublesome.”
While their lives are in the Philippines, Hannah and her husband, Jon, felt the threat was too high in a country with an overburdened health-care system — one where there are fewer than 2500 intensive care beds for more than a 100 million people. So, since March 15, they have taken shelter in Boston’s South Shore, where Jon’s family has been living for almost 40 years “They moved here across different times of turbulence for Philippine society,” Hannah said. “Jon’s grandfather, Papa Beck, moved to Quincy during martial law in the early 1980s. His father worked with the U.S. Navy. ‘My father told me about America,’ Papa Beck said. His son Dennis, my husband’s father, moved during the Philippine coup attempts in the late ’80s.”
Hannah and Jon now look for safety inside the physical structures of homes. “Staying home means safety from the virus, but also from the rising xenophobia against Asians and Asian Americans,” she said, as until recently, President Trump continued to call the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”
“While shopping for groceries, I hear my husband speak a little louder, making his American accent more pronounced, changing his body language so we might appear less of a threat in a country where he grew up being called 'chink’ and ‘spic,’ ” she added. “‘You get used to hard things,’ Papa Beck once told me. Though I am not moving here, I am seeing America through a gaze that isn’t so far from theirs when they first arrived. As we enter this unsettling period of history, I am reminded of the fragility of place, and the importance of what others built long ago so we can breathe a little easier. Under the bleak New England sky, and in grief and desperation, I hold on to traces of things that feel like home.”
Hannah and Jon visited Papa Beck and his wife, Mama Nel, over the weekend. “We said hello, and I thought about the safety their choices afforded my husband. Through the door frame, and through glass, the tiny act of keeping distance was the only way we could ensure theirs.”
Cate Dingley — New York
Cate Dingley’s apartment is filled with objects that remind her of the people and places she holds fondly in her heart. There’s the grapefruit that makes her think of Graham and Lane. There’s a statue that brings her back to New Mexico. Or that old sweater from Papa. With these objects, Cate creates scenes for them, scenes that help her deal with the confusing emotions her quarantine has brought.
“I started isolating on March 11, two days after my birthday,” she said. “On the ninth, I had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with thousands of other people. And then the feeling in New York seemed to change overnight — suddenly, people were wearing masks and panic-buying at the grocery store.”
Cate, 31, has found calm in her isolation. “The manic pace of life here has ground to a halt. It’s hard to find energy when you look out your window and it seems like the world has stopped,” she said. “My family and friends have always lived all over the United States and the world, and we’re used to seeing each other infrequently. But knowing we’re unable to visit, and feeling constant underlying anxiety for their health, makes the distance harder to live with.”
That’s why, through her photographs, she seeks to get closer to them. “I wanted to reference not only the stronger feelings like anxiety and fear but also the mundane ones, like boredom and exhaustion. And by making these photographs, I tell them I love them.”
M’hammed Kilito — Marrakesh, Morocco
M’hammed Kilito, 39, was in Europe when the Moroccan government announced it would be closing the border. “I was lucky enough to make it on the last plane home,” he said. But that relief turned into loneliness. Afraid that he might have covid-19, M’hammed decided to quarantine himself for 14 days, away from his parents. “If I hadn’t been in Europe, I think I would have been with my family like the majority of Moroccans who have been reunited to live these moments of confinement together.”
During these 14 days alone, M’hammed photographed his life away from other people. “I started to abide to a boxing routine,” he said. “I took up the trumpet, which I hadn’t touched in five years. I also spent time reading.” Near the end of his confinement, the lack of a human connection started taking its toll. “I lost the will to do anything. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to listen to music. I didn’t want to cook,” he said. But there was always the light at the end of the tunnel of self-containment: to be reunited with his parents and his brother.
“After 14 days, I was able to join them, which did me a lot of good,” he said. “Finally, human contact.”