Browsing Tag

isolation

2020 Contributing Creators Contributing Writers Pandemic Photography

Looking Through the Darkness

Photos and Text by Arkadeep Mitra

One look through the window, and it confirms that the world outside is still in a state of quarantine. The roads are deserted and the people out there are few and far between.

Working-from-home has become the new normal. While we continue convalescing from the effects of the deadly virus, unsure of what the future has in store for us, we find ourselves acclimatizing ourselves to this more shut-down lifestyle.

It is this uncertainty that has been central to our emotions and thought processes over the course of the last few months. Amongst the plethora of saddening news and negative developments around us, we have been swiveling inside the cycle of being down and depressed, to something more optimistic and back to being sad. Confined to the rigid walls of our homes, there is not much we can really do. It is during these dark times that I find myself drifting towards films, and books, and quietly hoping for them to take me to some far-off foreign land. A new place, different from the constructs we’re all stuck in.

On rare occasions I turn myself to my camera. Looking through the viewfinder, I somehow hope to catch something new in the rather familiar surroundings around me. The pictures I take in black-and-white are monochromatic like life itself, myself also devoid of colors.

I try to look through the pitch-black darkness outside. Sometimes I succeed in doing that. It gives me a thrill and I feel a little better, albeit for a minuscule moment.

Doing street-photography in these times has become quite challenging and carries a huge amount of risk. 

I try not to get bogged down by the limitations and use my Canon 1200D wherever and whenever I possibly can. I look for hours and hours out of the window, gazing at the ever-changing cloudscape, the setting sun, the bright moon and the occasional airplanes flying in the sky, free.

By switching to my handy zoom-lens, I manage to capture the far-off things easily. In my eyes though, they too are devoid of any real colors. I shoot them in monochrome only to saturate them with excess colors in post-processing. It looks a little unreal, but then isn’t what we’ve been experiencing a little unreal too?

Feelings of loneliness and seclusion have often been central to our feelings during the lockdown period. To make myself less lonely, I try to consume myself, watching an unhealthy number of films and relentlessly obsessing about them. More often than not, it’s all for a lost cause as I again look out aimlessly and long for companionship and intimate conversations. 

Watching and analyzing a huge amount of movies has influenced my photography in a lot of ways. For example, my preferred mode for shooting pictures has become the landscape mode, usually in a very cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio. Also, I keep yearning for more drama in the pictures I click. 

However it very rarely comes out the way I imagine it in my head, which in turn leads to disappointment. 

Throughout my photography, I have refused to conform to a particular style or form. Always experimenting, I am perpetually on the search for a style that I could and would stand by.

But as I keep clicking more and more pictures, I realize that one cannot just choose a style for themselves. In the course of making images, the style chooses them. One does not have to force it. Till that moment though, I shall keep trying different approaches and methods in making pictures. Hopefully, my own distinct style will break out soon. 

Growing up, I had a natural affinity towards good artworks. I’d stare with awe at the paintings and with time, I learned to appreciate them. However, I wasn’t particularly talented with the paintbrush in my hand. Nor was I good at poetry. Not even sculpting.

So, I looked to other mediums to satisfy my artistic desire. That medium turned out to be photography, and the camera became my paintbrush. I caught on to it like a house on fire. Immensely curious, I’d spend hours every day learning about this beautiful device called the digital camera. 

My primary method of shooting photographs involves going out on long photowalks, on the most crowded of streets and shooting amid the utter chaos, in an act of uncomplicated honesty.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to indulge in this during the ongoing lockdown. There was only so much I could do inside the confines of my home.

While photographing things, I don’t really start-off with a lot of frames in my mind. The shooting process comes rather naturally to me. I tend to walk a lot and whenever an interesting object pops up, I take out my camera and frame it.

Technical details don’t matter as much to me as long as there’s a heart and soul to the photo. It’s only during processing later, that I really look at the pictures, analyzing them, and unearthing the hidden meaning behind it. 

I’m self-confessedly not the happiest person out there, and I don’t go out looking to capture pictures with a particular theme either. But as I’ve realized during the course of my two years of photography, there have been certain themes that continue to be present.

These themes, as I’ve analyzed, include feelings of isolation and loneliness in the modern city.

Especially at a time when we are legally prohibited from going out and about for our daily routines, such feelings are sure to overwhelm us. I sometimes wonder what kind of lost universes I would capture if I actually decided to undertake the task of photographing the emptiness of the long and unending network of streets.

Probably nothing at all.

Arkadeep Mitra is a 20 year old photographer from Calcutta. As a very disillusioned engineering student, he often indulges in photography to escape the realities of life. 

Though refusing to conform to any particular genre, you can usually Arkadeep in the streets looking through the unlikeliest of angles trying to frame the unlikeliest of pictures.

You can contact him and view more of his works here:

Note: All the pictures were taken in Singapore (where I was fortunate to visit before the pandemic kicked in) and in my hometown of Calcutta, India before and during the course of global-lockdown. 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/arkadeep.mitra.54/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/wongkarwhyy/
500px – https://500px.com/streetarc

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Meeting Outside

Written by Kathryn Cardin

I know that girl sitting in the window, warmly backlit by low-watt bulbs. She is dark, she is a shadow. A slow drag of a cigarette, a raised bottle to the mouth. She knows I’m watching but I’m too far below for her to see me.

More bodies move in the back near the light source. They laugh a guttural laugh and break what sounds like a plate against the floor. They laugh harder and more. Her feet edge up the windowpane, the toe of one worn-out sneaker in front of the other. She flicks her cigarette the same way I do except mine is always loud and makes a snap and hers is silent. Does she mind that her friends, or whomever is up there, just broke one of her dishes? Maybe she has dishes for breaking. 

I grab my own throat. It’s a tic, like a nervous tic when I don’t know what else to do with my hands. I don’t choke myself, just place my hand so my windpipe becomes conscious. It’s funny, I hate when some people touch my neck, or even their own necks. Like doctors, feeling for a node. Or when people in movies slit throats (their own, their enemy’s). In real life, it would make me sick, too. I’ve just only seen it on screen. If you kill me someday please just don’t go for the neck. Anywhere else is fine. 

But while fucking I do like to be choked. I always seem to cough right before my brain winks out. I have a strained relationship with throats. It’s either harder, harder, or pure repulsion. Intubating? How even—

She’s gone from the window and it’s been lowered to a crack. Remnants of her sit on the fire escape: an empty can for ash, a dried-up plant I’m sure she’s never watered. Maybe over watered. I don’t think she’s ever watered it. 

I look at my own window. Past it, into the conjoined living room and kitchen. There is no difference between where I am now and inside. In there the air still has a tinge of something bad. Old smoke. Dog. Out here it’s rotten wood. Dog. I think about who lives there. Me, of course. But someone else, too. I think about how differently we live in the exact same space. How we use the same shower and shampoo but we smell nothing alike. 

I tap my grown-out and unpainted nails on the tabletop. I haven’t bartended in three months, so my nails are unusually long and have been throwing off my balance. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been returning anyone’s texts: the clicking on the glass screen all uneven and acute. Or maybe it’s because isolation breeds more isolation when it comes to me

I don’t think I’m alone in this isolation, though. Ha. There are tons of girls in tons of windows and tons of people sitting in shadows looking up at them. Maybe she will be my friend. We are neighbors, after all. 

I glance up and the window has opened again but her and her shadow are gone. The voices are gone, too. Now it’s just the hiss of summer air and my nails tapping against grime and tempered glass. As if the tapping is Morse Code she appears, summoned to look out at the window a final time. “Hey,” I speak. I am shocked at myself. Being social at a time like this? She responds, “hey,” and tosses a hard seltzer out the window and over the fire escape barrier bars like it’s something I asked to borrow. “Want to come up?” she asks. 

I do. 

Kathryn Cardin lives in Brooklyn, NY with her dog, cat, and boyfriend. She is a freelance writer/editor and co-publisher of Tart magazine. Follow her on Instagram @slimkatyyy.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Dancing Around Corners: Poems written during a pandemic

Written by Anne Pia

My Mother’s Rosary

my nightmares play on repeat
sequence follows sequence
colour-bled animations
stain these fresh walls
a silent wilderness freezes on white geometry.
I leak secrets in sweat
am grateful for steady breath,
sound landmarks towards north…journeying still,
and in my palm finally
I clench a greening crucifix, mould and metal;
yellowed beads drop one by one through frail fingers,
each and every one defiant at
this craving to catch my mother’s smell.

Another siren splits clagging air.
Another missile.


Love Letters in Lockdown

In the last days of a world we thought was solid
massing of dark cloud, warrior winds summoning strength,
Corona settled, we cowered, made ourselves invisible,
and in the void
there was only the nearness of our own breath
of reality collapsed to window frames
the stillness of trees, as we all waited.

Somewhere along the rim of consciousness
there was the thought of ending,
the day I would delete you my old friend, from my phone
you no longer walking those sands I promised to visit,
or those wild flowered fields down by the river,
or like the well-loved notes of a much played tune,
finding myself speaking your words, spoken in a distant memory,
singing your song, as I speed along a motorway.

Then through the small, careful steps of day after day,
of small discoveries,
of dancing with strangers around corners,
the unaccustomed smile of a neighbour
that brought tears,
opening a front door wide to the unknown,
dismantling a home delivery,
like a forgotten war bomb,
on small screens, you became larger,
in unfamiliar alphabets
we evolved a new language;
and we learned to walk new leylines
learned a new geography of human,
of friendship and worth.

We laid foundations afresh.


Lessons in Coffee

my prosaic kitchen is the set stage of a Glass opera
replacing green-tiled, brutal style coffee shops
entombed now in plywood , drawbridge well shut
its lean anatomy is rearranged;
crumbs of love in coffee beans,
shallow breathing from a sleek Moka machine,
and out of sober, white bags,
sought after treasures from a Portobello bakery,
small miracles…
the slow rise of sweet scones,
dimpled dough basking in spring sunshine,
fattening on my windowsill,
earth scents of confettied rosemary,
whirlpools of olive oil,
rich crackle of crusting in an ample oven.

Amid the starkness of masks somewhere on the outside
beyond the trees and unused road,
with yeast, godlike particles,
I plough fresh tracks in flour,
pour out warmth in water.
I live a new innocence.


Notes

Don’t ask me for words
words won’t suffice,
can’t speak for me…
give no comfort
ask too much.
Wordless
I wrap myself in a blanket
working strings and bow…
seeking only small solutions.

In the late morning from sturdy sound structures,
I drift to the unknown …
in Higdon and Auerbach…
massaging grief
in the mythic fantasies of a Hebridean fiddle.

My rough-laid shelf,
is made of splinters..smoked salmon in a Tesco bag,
a first latte after lockdown, Wednesday tunes, zoom with friends,
or by a lake cooking sausages together, amidst Bay-leaved willows,
a neat stove, three laughing swimmers and the chatter of rain,
soft needles on a crater of glass.

My cold computer screen
contains me,
reminds me I cannot reach my daughters’ warmth,
I review photographs of that other time,
the wood strains against the force, fails,
no match for tears
or the fucking rage.


Game Over

Bring back the masquerades and the make-up
I am a self I do not recognise
where have I gone?

Anne Pia is based in Edinburgh, and is a language graduate with a Doctorate in Education. Her interests include language, dialogue, and identity.

Her memoir Language of My Choosing was  shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year 2017 and won the Premio Flaiano Linguistica 2018.

Transitory, her first poetry collection, was published in April, 2018.

Anne’s writing has appeared in Northwards Now, Poetry Scotland, New Voices Press, Southbank Poetry London, The Blue Nib.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

A CARNIVAL WITHOUT SOUND

Written by Niall McDevitt

1
it is strange to see the young so afraid of death
walking badly dressed in emptied-out streets.
at first, they were not supposed to care much
or to be looking for cheap flights and hotels;
but fear foreruns virus and dragnets foil escape.
no one is quite the same anymore, body or mind,
all succumbing to the ghostliness of the hour.
the bottom has fallen out of the usual charade.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

2
laughter, disbelief, and conspiracies are dustbinned.
moods shift, heavy-bellied with unnamed feeling.
hair lengthens to brute, even women look feral
in a funereal atmosphere where nothing is normal.
we process along paths as pilgrims to Mecca (maybe
Islam was onto something with face coverings?)
or like a fancy dress party where everyone shows up
as the invisible man in sunglasses, bandages, hats.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

3
fear is in the equinoctial weather. the primal war
between winter and spring is in its endgame
so that March would have discombobulated anyway.
fear is even in the sun that registers win-win
by flaming through a status quo of negation
to glow so warmly and brilliantly and sanely
polishing the infrastructural surfaces we share.
the sun! it may be the last some of us ever feel.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

4
people have lost their poise, their bravado
as malaise takes hold of their understandings.
the young Indian in the cornershop is terrified
of his customers’ quasi-fatal notes and coins.
his eyes roll and dart about his youthful skull
as if about to shoot out with a sudden pop.
I felt I was murdering him just by perceiving him.
other shopkeepers wobble on the frontline too.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

5
in the midst of no man’s land, outcasts regroup.
it’s a ‘boon time’ for criminals who are yet discernible
– though everyone’s masked, gloved and hooded now –
by their Cain-like gait and cloven hoppings to and fro
from dealers to users and back, stopping momentarily
to look about shiftily, and then gob on the flagstones.
etiquette of the demimonde? territorial markings?
they are staking a claim in the fresh dispensation.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

6
the spectacle is of a land with no grail. Avalon’s
stupefied queues forage for basic provisions,
two metres between wrapped hangdog forms.
on one high street, only Tesco and the undertakers
are trading. pasta, alcohol, soap and toilet rolls
are the commonweal of the atomised-by-law,
some talking into wires like madmen, fiendish,
others vacant, half-afloat on shuttered parades.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

7
ambulances dance via christmas-cake mansions
and brutalist blocks of two-nations architecture
with sirens switching from long wails to short
whoop-whoops along tree-lined, traffic-free lanes.
one house is entered, a ton of chattels piled up
on the grass outside, eerie eviction. another flat
is sellotaped-off. a trio in hazmat safety suits
hovers about the foyer as noiseless as astronauts.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

8
freezers ordered, freezers delivered, freezers stocked
in a political landscape like a pop-up morgue.
the older and wiser look down toward the ground
who knew death might come soon, but not this soon.
they too have shopping bags and thinned-out newspapers,
standing under a natural white blossom umbrella
grateful to insert a key into their own front doors.
they know the rhythms of spring better than anyone.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

Niall McDevitt is the author of three collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo (International Times, 2013) and Firing Slits, Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016). In 2012, he performed poetry at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown. In 2016, he performed in Iraq at the Babylon Festival. Irish poet, he lives in London. You can see more of his work at poetopography.wordpress.com.

2020 Contributing Writers Creative Pieces Pandemic Prose

The Rabbit Hole

Written by Caroline Goldberg Igra

I grip the edges of the hole into which I was most brutally pitched weeks ago, and peer over the edge, squinting to block out the impossibly bright light of the sun. I struggle to adjust to what used to be normal and the blurry forms before me begin to take shape, surprising me with their familiarity. The world just outside is one that I recognize; indeed, it’s the very same one I left behind. Still, the idea of resuming the life I was living seems out of the question. How will I ever regain what I have lost? How can I possibly move forward, knowing what I have missed?

I duck my head back inside. It’s safe in here. I’m not sure I’m ready to venture outside. I wander through the chambers, the rooms of my home, finding comfort in what has become my new reality; each space assuming an altered significance, providing a newly-defined need. Fact is, I kind of like it here. What I was sure would be depressing, a mausoleum of lost opportunity, has become the opposite. My life in the deep belly of my home is more than a little wonderful.

I consider whether it’s really worth considering the leap beyond into the new unknown. Maybe it won’t be as terrific as everyone says, maybe it will disappoint by being the same as it’s always been. I need to figure that out. I crawl back up toward the light, plant both hands firmly, and lift my shoulders above the rim, this time taking more than a peek. Scanning the view before me, I find something new. There’s color everywhere. I hadn’t noticed that the first time, when I was still trying to adjust to the light, to focus. Yet now the spectacular rainbow of color–pinks, reds, purples, oranges, and yellows–is impossible to miss. Spring has come without any fanfare, insisting on its inevitability despite humanity’s forced absence. 

Down I go. I’m not ready. I don’t need all that color. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. In any case, I’ve managed to find my own glorious kind of color right here. My kingdom is bursting with multiplicity, shot through with brilliant points of light, heaving and breathing with discovery, exploration, connection, and self-realization. The feelings of isolation, abandonment, and mourning I’d expected when this whole journey began are nowhere to be found. In their stead is a wealth created from sheer willpower, the human need to thrive. My need to thrive. I’ve spent six weeks frolicking in worlds I’d never thought to explore, never taken the time to explore–expanding my mind, challenging my palette, breathing life into words I’d thought exhausted and reigniting connections long dormant. I’ve crossed more borders from within than I ever could have from without. This new world, one of my own design, beautifully competes with the one that is waiting just beyond, challenging its ability to make me smile and laugh; to make me want to get up in the morning. 

Again, I wonder if I’m better off staying put. It’s so hard to decide. I tap the font of renewed strength these last six weeks have provided and force myself to leave the comfort of my very own, now even more beloved, home, launching myself into the new unknown, the one everyone’s talking about, the one everyone has been waiting for. One hearty push and I’ve crossed the border that has protected me. I’m outside. The colors I spotted earlier rush at me from all sides, overwhelming me with their presence, insisting on being noticed. They’re inordinately enticing, so hard to resist. They welcome me back. “You made it!” And while, oh so tempting, exactly what I’d desperately craved when this all began, I hesitate. The magnetic pull of the richness I’ve left behind is too strong to ignore. I glance back over my shoulder at the place from which I’ve come. It’s equally appealing and holds a promise the outside world cannot provide. I turn my back on the beyond and jump back to safety. This rabbit hole is complex and twisted, flawed, and imperfect, but it’s eternally mine.

Caroline Goldberg Igra has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in international, academic art history journals, a book on the work of WWII artist J. D. Kirszenbaum (Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2013) and a novel, “Count to a Thousand,” (Mandolin Publishing, 2018). Caroline blogs for the Times of Israel.