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CREDIT: Antoinette Castro

Living in Parallels by Antoinette Castro (Spain)

Everyday items took on a new meaning during lockdown

Tell us about the project?

The times we are living in have forced me to contemplate and reflect on my way of life and relationships. I find the current situation of living with Covid19 has had an impact on my notion of identity and place on differing levels and how I interact with my surroundings, people and even myself. Lockdown in Spain was strict and even though I live in the Canary Islands, where cases were less severe, the economy has suffered more due to relying heavily on tourism. Yet, I feel fortunate living here during times like this, such glorious weather, with varying and stunning landscapes due to its microclimates, which is why some are referred to as ‘Miniature Continents’. 

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These products have taken on a new meaning, no longer items overlooked or considered banal, but rather iconic. Their worth reinforced by the underlying concern of possible shortages and panic buying, as well as only being allowed out at the time, to visit supermarkets or chemists, which reiterated their importance. So, it made sense for me to have used these objects as the theme for my photographic project, expressing the way I began to relate to them.

I wanted to make pictures of ordinary, everyday objects found in the home in extraordinary circumstances, hoping to change the viewer’s perception of them, which is why Still Life was the right genre of photography to have used.

Still Life portraiture meant I had a lot of control, allowing me to explore lighting, composition and colour. Yet it was challenging, because my framing and arrangement of objects would determine if they became the subject of beauty, interest or intrigue, so I had to pay meticulous attention to how I placed them in relation to each other, the lighting and which colours to bring together.

I had none of my photographic accessories due to lockdown, so I had to improvise, like working under poor lighting conditions, which meant working with a shallow depth of field. I introduced the reflection on the glass top to transmit a surreal feeling, a sense of living in two realities. I have portrayed the pictures in the order they were made, to demonstrate how my response to lockdown changed over the days. The same location together with the theme, would be the anchor linking them together, but the subtle changes in the actual setting meant it was not just a typology of household goods, but conveyed a sense of something being slightly out of sync, like the differing media information being supplied and thus lack of transparency, which felt disconcerting.

My intentions were to represent a notion of place, a place where I was at, but had never envisaged. On the surface, my identity was reflected in a collective way, by sharing a common experience and story, responding in similar ways to others, but on a more subtle level, it also conveyed how I felt emotionally. For the irony was, that in parallel to working on my project, my relationship fell apart and before I completed the final picture, my partner abandoned our home. So the sense of vulnerability I felt when stepping outside, I also experienced indoors.

What did you learn while doing the project?

I have learnt that no matter how much planning and preparation I initially put into a new project, it will inevitably move in a different direction to the one I had intended, with the final set of pictures never being the same as those I had initially envisaged, so it has taught me to be flexible and open minded when embarking on a new project.  Possibly because the pictures I make are often of a personal nature and therefore my work becomes about exploring and dealing with certain issues, but this in turn makes photographing exciting and even a necessity.

Any tips or lessons you can share?

To keep an open mind and see where your work leads you, for often the final edit can be so different to that intended. Projects can be a journey of self- discovery, a form of therapy, which although challenging, can be very fulfilling. Another useful tip is keeping a diary of how a project evolves, I find this helps me in its development and critical analysis.

Is the project complete and how do you feel about the result?

My projects generally never feel complete, because I am never fully satisfied with the final set and  I become so engrossed and attached to the images, that it is hard to let go. I am really not sure at this stage, if this project is complete, only time will tell. However, I do have an idea of pursing the theme of Still Life portraits of ordinary household goods, but incorporating different ink dyes and reshaping the objects from their familiar form.

What next?

To make a photobook of pictures from my series, My Mother, some of the images were published in the RPS DIG News, December, 2018. The latter is an ongoing project spanning over various years, where I document my mother ́s life living with Alzheimer ́s Disease and my response to it.