Tomaso Clavarino wasn’t always a photographer. He started out as a writer, but around seven years ago he gradually put down the pen and turned toward the camera. He had been interested in photography from a young age. His father, an architect and accomplished photographer himself, taught Clavarino almost everything he knows about photography.
So, after getting an MA in contemporary history and then working for several years as a freelance journalist, the foundation for switching to photography had already been laid. For Clavarino, photography “gives me the chance to investigate our society with freedom and imagination, feeds my curiosity and makes it possible to develop wider narratives with the obligation to deal somehow with reality.”
Since switching over to photography, Clavarino has dedicated himself to working mostly on social and humanitarian issues. As it has for a lot of freelance photographers, the global spread of covid-19 has severely hampered the kind of work that Clavarino can do. But, for some, like Clavarino, it has also provided an opportunity to grow.
Clavarino told In Sight that while he’s not used to photographing his own life, being quarantined has made him rethink that, helping him push his creative limits. He says, speaking in English, that this time has given him “the chance to deal with my comfort zone and to try to develop another kind of visual narrative, more intimate and personal. I wanted to deal with my roots in such a crazy period we are living, to deal with my past and to do so in a place that seems a sort of quiet haven suspended in time and space but pervaded of the tension of these times.” For Clavarino, this has manifested itself in an extremely personal and introspective project he has come to call his “Quarantine Ballad.”
Here is Clavarino’s description of the project:
“In life sometimes events follow one another without giving you a chance to breathe. The news of my partner’s pregnancy; a mourning that has deeply affected us; the inability to receive a hug from friends and relatives; Italy, and the whole world, paralyzed by a pandemic. So came the need to breathe, to return to the place where I grew up, which has always represented a safe haven, a happy island, immersed in an unreal tranquility, just a few kilometers away from the areas most affected by the epidemic.
“Cocconato d’Asti, in the hills of Lower Monferrato, Piedmont. Set in the second region in Italy for number of deaths for covid-19, a few kilometers from some of the most affected areas of northern Italy, here everything seems immersed in a surreal calm.
“And it is in this reality, as if suspended in time and space, that ‘Quarantine Ballad’ was born, a sort of rural ballad, a personal narration of these weeks, which talks about me, my roots, those around me but above all of the tension that pervades our lives in this period, and of this historical moment that will represent a clear break in our society and in our way of life.”
“The world is still dealing with the rough realities the covid-19 pandemic has unleashed on us. As of this writing, there have been over three million confirmed cases and more than two hundred thousand deaths. There is still no vaccine or effective treatment for the virus and our lives, for the foreseeable future, have been turned upside down. As Clavarino’s ballad shows us, it is as good a time as ever to reflect — on who we are and what our place in the world is and also who we want to be in the coming years as life will most likely look much different than it once did.”
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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