In a globalised society that seemingly contracts by the day, lockdown has encouraged artists to connect, create and share across the digital frontier. Photographer Marieke Macklon has been busy catching up with artists living in lockdown through her FaceTime photoshoot collection Artists At Home as they came to terms with new realities thrust upon them.
The 21st century pandemic has not been the societal leveller it was widely regarded to be. Large cross-sections of society are carrying the most disproportionate of burdens, and impossibly larger still face a future of uncertainty. Those who traditionally earn their living in the creative industry know these to be salient truths.
Certainly, times like this alter how we interpret our world through words. Daily conversations abound with quarantines, self-isolations, furloughs and lockdowns, while televisions and smartphones urge us to stay alert, stay apart, and save lives. As we grapple with epidemics and pandemics, PPE and flattening curves, weekly calculations of R rates have become strange new barometers of hope in a brave new world.
An ever-changing terminology dominates the daily grind from home and glitchy video calls with sheltered relatives, just as questions of sanity regularly occupy the weeks and months as they roll into one stream of consciousness. Though we are still yet to unpack the teachings this virus will inevitably part, the last several months has at least taught us one thing: words and communication matter. They give us order, collective solidarity, and anchors of sanity when social distancing, ambiguous press briefings and Groundhog Day repetitions of phased easing threaten that sanity.
(Sara Wolff, Rebekka Anstern)
It’s through this prism that MARIEKE MACKLON’s latest work finds fertile ground. Artists At Home – a collection of photoshoots and interviews over FaceTime with artists and bands from Liverpool to Hawaii – takes us up and close with her on-screen subjects as they reconciled home isolation with their craft. The experimentation within the portraits, each comprising various tones, compositions, and backdrops, reveal a much more personal connection with her subjects during certainly one of the most vulnerable periods of their lives. Far away from their usual chambers of stage and sound for now at least, the artists further expose their vulnerability to Macklon through interviews. It’s as much an exploration of the isolated human condition as it is about what we reveal when our worlds shut down.
For Macklon herself, her latest from-home project is a quest for this sanity and some semblance of normality amid the kaleidoscope of emotion and opportunity which isolation can bring to those in the creative industry. “Lockdown has put me into full motivation mode and made me think of ways to keep myself creative, busy, and close to normality as much as possible,” she tells us. In this creative zeal for inspiration, the idea for the Artists At Home collection sprouted from scrolling through social media, the very place where so many of us have admittedly turned to for clarity and shared community amid the chaos. “I came across a couple of marvellously talented photographers on Instagram that have been starting to photograph models over FaceTime,” she says. “I felt an instant fire building inside of me of wanting to try out this unusual way of photographing [in isolation].”
(Guro, Luis, Rich, All We Are)
After reaching out to a collection of friends to test her vision out, Macklon was surprised with how far a mobile app and an internet connection can take even the most seasoned concert photographer. “I was completely in shock with the outcome. Somehow the app manages to capture the highest quality a video call can possibly have. With a slight touch of post-editing, the photos are very close to what they would look like from an actual camera,” she explains.
Finding enough subjects to get on-board with the project came naturally to the current director of the Green Man photo team. “Having been photographing for more than 10 years within the music industry,” she continues, “I have built up a rather lovely bunch of connections who I contacted to see if they would like to be a part of this project. They all came back with a magical yes!” Of course they did. For all the pandemic has done to disrupt the creative industry’s prospects, the lives that drive it forward have automatically banded together in admirable solidarity.
And though documenting and directing over FaceTime is an unusual form of photography for Macklon, working from home is far from the wilderness for an artist whose natural habitat is sharing the stage with artists. “My usual work process is being out and about directing photo and video shoots with bands,” she says. “However, 40 per cent of the time is spent at home editing and coming up with new innovative shoot ideas and projects.” Artists At Home is a compelling argument that the most expansive outlets for creativity can often come in the most secluded and confined of spaces: at home on a computer.
Except, with just a computer and a mobile app, Macklon has merged the physical and digital world she inhabits, coming also as a welcome channel for improvisation for those at the other end of her app as a global health crisis suppresses them. “Like the shoot with All We Are,” Macklon reflects, “all three had some marvellous props at home, such as rainbow coloured sunglasses, fish-eye lens, grannie’s old shades and quirky wine glasses that we used to our full advantage.”
(Eli Smart, Tarek Musa)
Despite not being able to shoot in person, Macklon has had little difficulty in encouraging her artists at home to embrace a more than usual sprinkle of creative expression for the shoots: “The artists have had to do that all themselves. They need to put together their looks and their backdrop, which is usually not their job to do. However, because of this odd scenario that we are in, they are able to be even more creative in putting a photoshoot together.”
It is an odd scenario indeed, and the future landscape of those involved in Macklon’s industry has never looked so unrecognisable. But amid the confusion is something that can be found aplenty across the creative scene: hope. “I have full confidence in returning back to work as usual, once we’re back to a somewhat normality,” she says. That normality, whatever form it will eventually take, is certain to reaffirm one thing. Even in the most disparate of circumstances, the fire and drive to connect, create and share within our communities can prove to be one of humanity’s most powerful.
(Below: Abby Meysenburg, Sara Wolff)
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