PHOTO ESSAY: SHELTER IN PLACE

AMANDA NESCI

For many, home is seen as a place you come back to, retreat, relax, decompress. How does this relationship change when our homes become our whole world?

Due to the shelter in place orders as result of the COVID-19 outbreak, our homes have become much more: offices, gyms, classrooms, studios, bars. Windowsills become desks and wine bottles become dumbbells. As our spaces shift, so does our relationship to them.

To investigate this changing dynamic, I asked people to send me a snapshot of the space they are spending the most time in their home during isolation. I also requested that they accompany the photo with a blurb describing the space, what they use the space for, how they feel about it right now, or whatever they felt like sharing.

*All photos and quotes were submitted with permission to include in this project, with a few requests for photo credits

Joan, 26

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Photo Credit: Joan Glackin

“The red chair in the corner of my bedroom used to be covered in clothes, now I spend most of my day in it. It’s my office, it’s where I see my friends, it’s where I read and think and cry and drink a cocktail and watch the sunset every single night.”

Monica, 27

Manhattan, New York, USA

“My room has now become my office, my kitchen and my gym. Most days it feels like a safe haven to me – but there are days when it feels like its walls are keeping me from living my life. My room used to be where I spent the least amount of time, I would really only be in here to sleep. It’s why I don’t have any art on the walls, it felt like a place where I was really only passing through…now it’s become my entire world. I’ve been social distancing for over 2 months, and my life feels like it’s on pause.”

Fran, 26

Staten Island, New York, USA

“This is the first time I’m using this desk for its intended purpose, it’s former life was a makeup vanity. I’m a speech therapist so I’ve been working from home and video chatting with students. I needed an area that had a blank background and space for books, papers, etc. Working out of my bedroom isn’t ideal, but with two other people working from home it’s the best I could do. At least my commute has never been shorter.”

Jane, 62

Staten Island, New York, USA

“I had to figure out how to recreate my classroom and create a whole new way to teach in a weekend. I tried to recreate how I teach in the classroom. I ordered a whiteboard and markers, mounted the board in my kitchen and I was set to go. The major problem is internet connection and frozen screens but I have been making the best of it. I really miss my classroom and the daily interaction with my students.”

Maria, 22

Peckham, London, UK

Photo Credit: Maria Owen

“Every day once we’ve made coffee, we open the door to the garden to see if it’s warm enough to leave it open. The open door extends the limited space of the kitchen to an outdoor gathering space, used for reading, working, tanning and dining. The first time I came to this house, I hardly noticed it, but now it’s my favourite room. A private and secret outside, just for us.”

Lisa, 29

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Photo Credit: Lisa Goulet

“I’ve become one of those people who wakes up at 6 in the morning without an alarm. As much as I don’t need or want to get up, it happens. Usually this is my favourite time of year, when the weather is becoming bearable and I can wake up with the sun. Right now, I just lay in bed and dread the arrival of the morning news on my phone.”

Michelle, 26

Copenhagen, Denmark

“The kitchen is always a soft spot for me. While isolating, I’ve delved into baking. But, I have to say my favorite use for this room happens between 2:00 and 4:00 each day. The sun shines directly through the window at this time. If it decides to greet us that day, that is. I always sit here for those two hours. Working on my laptop, but more realistically reading and nibbling on the cakes I’ve made the day before. I’m already sunburned.”

Christina, 30

Brooklyn, New York, USA

“I spend the majority of my time in my living room, which is now also my office, which spills over into my bedroom, which is now also my gym. I’ve been sticking to a strict routine of working out every day for at least an hour, which has helped my mental state some. After I work out, I also go out and walk for at least an hour for a change of scenery and sunlight. It’s really all I can do right now and I rely on it to pass the days.”

Andrew, 30

Brooklyn, New York, USA

“My bed takes up most of my room, which isn’t usually a problem, since in normal times, I don’t do much but sleep in there. Now I work from home, and I need some privacy and my bed is the only place I can be. I put some beverages on the nightstand, sit on the edge of the bed, and get to work. If I need to relax, I just lean back.”

Alicia, 26

Queens, New York, USA

“This space used to be just for meals, a hangout spot after a friend and I left a bar, or game nights with friends. Now, most of my life happens here – I take all my meetings here, I run orientation, graduation, final project showcases, guest speakers, and workshops from here, and I join our weekly family happy hour, help my MIL with zoom, and have 4 o’clock wine from here. When I need a break I sit on the other side of the counter where my husband sometimes sits.”

Alex, 26

Queens, New York, USA

Photo Credit: Alex Shannon

“I’ve lived here since December 2015, and this apartment has always felt like home to me, so it felt very natural that this be where I “shelter in place.” I love my alone time in my room, even though it’s so small, I’ve made it cozy and eclectic and reflective of me. I rescued my mirror from the side of the road, outside of an old Victorian home being renovated in my hometown – it’s one of my most prized possessions. Every piece of art and furniture in my room has a long story behind it, and being surrounded by that history, my history, makes me feel safe. I’ve most recently hung the small black framed images of people with pasta instead of heads as an ode to our quarantine lifestyle.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Nesci is current MA student studying Material and Visual Culture in the UCL Department of Anthropology. She is originally from New York City and holds a BA in Psychology from New York University where she studied social psychology and minored in anthropology. Amanda is interested in interdisciplinary research related to collective memory, social change, and museum studies. Prior to studying at UCL, Amanda worked at the Climate Museum, the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to education and action regarding the climate crisis. Her current research is exploring the digitization of the museum experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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