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"Universes": A Visual Story of Isolation, Resilience & Connection During COVID-19

"Universes" by Verónica Lombeida

A personal artistic story inspired by the isolation and stillness discovered during the coronavirus pandemic - inspired to find voices, faces, and spaces around the world.

As a result of the coronavirus, it was not possible to travel in the “normal mood”, nor to hug friends or family as we used to, but it is possible to have new experiences through technology. So, I thought I would travel around the world a little bit and meet new people. Of course, I didn’t leave my house, or even my room, to arrive at other countries even other continents. Maybe the quality is not the best, so I called them “visiting cards” as Disderí calls his portraits that were made in a studio to be a very peculiar size 54mm x 89mm. I took the name “visiting” because this type of travel is a visit; a time change and then time comes back. I did not use chemicals, but I was limited technically.

Despite everything, something wonderful happened… I met beautiful people who have revealed a little piece of their universes by allowing me to go to the special place they call home. They expressed their emotions. Many of them agreed that during confinement they had more time for themselves, their partners, or the other important members of their lives and because of that, they thank it. There was also an intense feeling of missing physical contact, like a hug from mom or greeting the neighbour at the door while going through a time of tension and calm.

Virtually, I met a traveling neighbour of Peru, I arrived in faraway Indonesia, I passed through Germany, Poland, Argentina, the Netherlands, Denmark, Costa Rica. Each place, I met a human being living through the pandemic. I applied a particular technique, that was not about capturing a large photograph but rather than human being behind it.

What is most important to you as a photographer and artist?

As an artist and photographer, it is so important to me to show the social needs and beauty of the world harmoniously together. Amongst all my projects, I consider my self-portraits to be the strongest. I am a very sensitive person who uses all of their senses and personal tools to bring awareness to social problems without violence but through colour, light, and form.

What subjects do you like to shoot and why?

I concentrate a lot of my time on mental health and feminist issues because they are two things that happen all over the world and it is extremely necessary to talk about that. Especially in a country like Ecuador, when in the 21st century, going to the psychologist or talking about sexuality is still a taboo. With photography, I know I cannot save the world, but if I can give a voice to those who need it and if I can generate doubts then I can also give ears to listen. I can make someone feel good about what they have experienced and what they perceive through photography.

What inspired you to want to become a photographer?

I get inspired by daily life. The expressions of people, how they behave, what they say when they feel free ... and what they try to hide in order not to be judged or hurt. Also, I take inspiration from cinema - especially Wes Anderson and his use of colours. His chromatic makes me crazy, I love it! Books also inspire me by generating doubts and personal reflection. Right now, I am reading "Opinions of a Clown" of Heinrich Boll.

What inspired you to create the series "Universes"?

Well, when coronavirus pandemic hit Ecuador and it started to be a real problem, I decided to make a series of self-portraits which I call "Characters in Quarantine for Coronavirus". It is a series that reflects the mental health of people at this time, characterized by what I saw in the news and among my own family.

One day I realized that I could continue working with the same theme by portraying more people around the world affected by the coronavirus with technology. Technology can open spaces to generate new experiences. Each person is a universe, a feeling with their own way of living. it is not a question of running away from the problem, the idea is about learning about how to now live with the virus. There is a process. That process is very personal; people may have the same state of mind, but each one has its way of carrying it and learning how to handle it. Considering this, I decided to make the series "Universes". I looked for friends who are far away, not all of them were in the mood for pictures and I totally respected that, but I really wanted to do it. So, I looked for people I didn't know through different social networks. It was a virtual trip; I arrived from the neighboring country Peru to Indonesia, with some of these people I still have contact with others not so much. I thank each one of them for sharing their space with me, their universe, of how they were living in quarantine. They had the confidence to open up with me; it was very nice to be able to listen to them and to have done something different during the confinement.

What did you learn personally through the process of making "Universes" as an artist?

The whole series of "Universes" was made using screenshots during the video call. At the beginning I was not convinced of the medium because of its technical limitations; in the end it was really the least important thing because the point is not a 2m photograph. The idea is to show the universe of each person, with their hobbies, their emotional highs, and lows like a roller coaster. For a moment we forgot about the virus and concentrated on ourselves. It's another way of taking pictures by adapting to the circumstances with the internet and a camera you can contribute a lot.

What feelings or emotions do you hope to evoke amongst other people through the series?

I hope that people who see the series “Universes” meet with themselves and respect their own space and the sensitivity of others. In many occasions, we cannot understand the people who are around us, but if we can respect the feelings of each one and if it is in our hands to help them than let's do it. Let's encourage them to go to therapy, motivate them in what they do, give moral support, visit them with the precautions of the situation. Overall, I believe it is necessary to live in a more empathic world.

What future projects are you working on currently?

Now I'm starting another small series of self-portraits based on synonyms and antonyms that reflect what we need to leave be. I am still building a small project on menstruation because in Ecuador it is a country where menstruation is a huge taboo. There are women who know that one day they will bleed and nothing else, while others live in shame of having a normal life because they are with their period. So, there are many ways that are misguided about this topic to the point of saying that a woman is sick when it is a totally natural biological process.

About Verónica Lombeida

Verónica Lombeida is a 25-year-old female photographer from the small town of Guaranda, Ecuador “carnival town” who currently lives in Quito, Ecuador. She studied photography design and graduated in 2019 at “La Metro” in Quito – Ecuador. Verónica is a digital photographer, who specifically works with colour; however, she finds that black and white images take more intimate photographs from a more outer standpoint. To her, black and white photography embodies and portrays people from their most personal points of view. Moving forward, she hopes to continue on her artistic journey by learning how to work with analog photography. She wants to continue to spark my passion, curiosity, growth, and exploration through the art and the world.

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