Creativity in Quarantine: Photographing Solitude, Memory, Nostalgia

Creativity in Quarantine: Photographing Solitude, Memory, Nostalgia June 27, 2020

This is the second article in a three part series by NYC-based photographer Felicia DiSalvo. Click here to read parts 1 and 3.

The fact that I spend a lot of time by myself has surprisingly aided me in my journey as a  photographer. It comes with being an introvert. But I’ve also come to value how this allows me to be more contemplative.  I enjoy sitting awake until 3-5 am at night and looking through quotes, artwork, and photos on Tumblr. I often translate these quotes and scenes into my own writing and reflect on why they struck me.

This is how I view life.  I’m very attentive to anything that can be considered charged with meaning. I believe everything we are made of and everything we experience and everything we see with our eyes is charged with meaning.  My goal in photographing is to capture this truth and show myself and the people around me that there is so much more to be seen.  

This kind of attentiveness allows me to see the different faces of the human person. There are so many ways to express oneself through art. It amazes me how we can see the same things from such unique perspectives.

There is a real reason behind the fact that cinematographic and cliche images do so well online and even in movies and books.  There is something there that people are trying to cling onto.  Whatever it is that people are seeing in these beautiful moments that touch their heart is perfectly unique for everyone.

I tend to be nostalgic and sentimental about my memories.  While idealizing the past is not really practical, thinking about the past brings me extensive amounts of joy. The act of remembering teaches me that there is value in what I’ve been through.  Reminiscing about these moments reveals the beauty of my past experiences and how they have led me to where I am today.

It’s easy during this global pandemic to miss what we used to be able to do, and for nostalgia to become a crippling weight on our days. But during this quarantine, I learned yet another thing about my photography…something that photographers all over the world are actually discovering, during this time when creativity can quickly start to stagnate.

During the first week of March, I extensively planned out three fashion/ concept photoshoots with three of my friends.  These photoshoots included an entire plan from the amount and type of shots I intended to take, to the wardrobe styling with precision in making sure the clothing fit the emotion, and long storylines depicting an actual scene that I wanted to portray.  However, 10 days later this plan fell through and the quarantine prevented that from happening.

I decided that my first attempt to stay creative during this time would be through taking self portraits.  If no one else is around to model for me, I can just model for myself.  I created 14 different self portrait photoshoots within the span of a week, and I was very proud of how they came out.  Self-portraits are exhausting expressions of art and they involve running back and forth from a tripod and a posing spot, focusing on an area that I cannot even see if I’ll properly be posing in, and a lot of uncertainty.  Still, I was willing to struggle with it in order to keep making art that I am so passionate about.

Another way I kept creative was keeping my film camera with me when my family went on daily walks around the neighborhood.  I had never wanted to take photos of my neighborhood before because prior to the virus, I had spent most of the hours of the day out of my neighborhood and into the more dense and so called “interesting” parts of the city.  When it became impossible to go to those parts of the city, I decided to open my eyes up to see something more around the place I considered the most mundane in my life.  Without quarantine, I never would have learned to appreciate the places that I do not have to travel or make a trip out to see.

Lastly, and perhaps the most powerful lesson I learned in quarantine as a photographer, came from the popular internet trend of photographers, both recreational and professional, to conduct photoshoots via FaceTime.  The results amazed me.  I actually made a friend through this experience: a photography student at my school whom I had never actually met in person.  We both photographed each other by using a camera and taking photos of our laptop screens. Some amazing things came out of this experience. Firstly, two people made a friend in a completely different time zone because of photography. We both stepped out of our comfort zones to form this unconventional bridge of creativity and human connection.  Secondly, we both rediscovered the meaning of photography in a more clear and powerful way. Our art form is not just about producing high quality photographs. It’s about looking at the details of life more attentively, and sharing this vision with others. 

If photography was about physically being next to the subject, why are creatives flocking to such a lower-quality version of creating work?  The meaning behind creation runs so much deeper and is so much more of a personal expression rather than a physical set.  This is not to say that a proper production is inferior by any way, but it means the personal and emotional depth of the work coming from a group of people’s self-expression is what brings a physical idea to life.

See more of Felicia’s portfolio here.

About Felicia DiSalvo
Felicia DiSalvo is a NYC-based photographer, styling intern, and advertising and marketing communications student. Her photography career began in 2017 and since then has photographed engagement sessions, baptisms, music recitals, and individual sessions. As of 2020, she is drafting her first long-term fashion/ editorial and documentary photography project/ photo book. You can read more about the author here.
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