24th July 2020

In_pictures Coronavirus: Cut negatives capture the isolation of lockdown

In_pictures Coronavirus: Cut negatives capture the isolation of lockdown

In_pictures

in_pictures A composite picture from the series To Dance With Shadows by Aletheia CaseyImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

During the coronavirus crisis, many photographers have been taking socially distant pictures of their neighbours or images of the unusually empty streets where they live. For some though it is not about recording the seen world, it is about creating an image that captures their own experiences of the past few months.

Here photographer Aletheia Casey talks about her series To Dance With Shadows.

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

A dog howls in the distance. A bird lies dead on the pavement. The sound of a passing train echoing through the unpolluted air seems louder now. There is a silence, an emptiness, and a solitude that I have never experienced before in the city. The world seems to have been thrown into a quiet chaos, and the future suddenly feels messy and uncertain.

The flowers in my kitchen, long dead, still sit in their vase. When I arranged them, florists, like everything else, were still open. I touch the transparent, delicate petals; a reminder of the fragility of human life.

in_pictures Trees from the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

The trees outside have burst into new life, in contrast to the near empty streets below them. In the absence of people, pigeons and foxes have reclaimed the streets. A single masked figure walks by, the only visible reminder that life is all but normal.

I find respite from the anxiety of the situation by making photographic work. I cut into my negatives, damaging and distorting them; overlaying my own grief and fear onto the images.

I manipulate and disfigure the photographs to reflect the way in which the future seems distorted and dark with shadows.

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

As time passes I rework images of scenes captured when life was predictable and the future more certain. I dissect and scratch the images, separating and isolating the pieces of negatives, the lonely splinters of cut film now sitting apart from one another, disconnected, much as I now feel disconnected from many of those that I love.

I overlay the fragments of the cut negatives on top of ink paintings that my young son and I made together while his school was closed and I was his main companion.

The ink from the paintings slowly stains the film, and as it dries and cracks it seems to resemble a virus under the microscope, spreading and infecting.

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

Loneliness creeps in under my living room door.

It is an unwelcome guest, but I allow it in to sit with me while I work, a silent companion. My own rhythmic breathing becomes a calming background to the production of these images.

Outside my window, a fragile cherry tree is aflame with delicate blossoms. Several days later, the flowers have fallen to the ground as if in defeat, making the pavement resemble the aftermath of a lost fight.

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

in_pictures From the series To Dance With ShadowsImage copyright
Aletheia Casey

All photographs courtesy Aletheia Casey, with text by Aletheia Casey and Ben Smith.

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