Asalah Youssef, a seventeen year old Langley Fine Arts School student, is taking tours of homes all across the world as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on – and she is doing it from her own home by connecting with people on Facetime.
Screenshots of Home is a project Youssef said was born out of feeling “artistically numb” in isolation.
Scrolling through Instagram and noticing a huge online presence of people doing live videos and connecting in new way made her see that there were far more common experiences being had during the pandemic than first thought.
“The photo project documents diverse people all over the world in their homes during isolation,” Youssef said. “I am finding connections all across the globe, hearing people’s stories, getting an intimate look into their lives, and even experiencing jet lag without getting on a plane – all while staying safe at home.”
Youssef contacts people she follows on Instagram via private message, then sets up a portrait session with the willing individuals quarantined in their home.
Through a FaceTime call, Youssef is given a tour of the home while working together to document their COVID experiences and staging compositions, framing, angles, and lighting for photographs.
Youssef noted that a lot of her subjects were strangers before the shoot, but on the call, she finds herself immediately having meaningful conversations – connecting over this shared experience and working together to create art.
“I guide my subjects through composition, lighting and poses, it is complete collaboration,” she continued. “This project has become a visual journal of everyday lives, of common humanity, shared but unique experience, of empathy, of vulnerability and of connection.”
From Mexico, to Germany, to Lebanon and Japan, Youssef said she has connected with many people and received an intimate look at what life at home has been like for them.
From Ceilidh in France who has been dealing with the passing of her father who she couldn’t see due to social distancing orders, to married couple Stuart and Tony in England, who have been dealing with the pressure of homeschooling two children – Youssef said she is getting out of her comfort zone and understanding how interconnected people truly are.
“By taking these photographs I hope to create a visual gallery of connection and empathy, one that documents this historic time in an intimate way. A sense of belonging is vital at this time and through my visual storytelling I share our common humanity,” she explained.
While she does not know if the project will continue after COVID-19, Youssef said she would rather focus on capturing the situation the world is presently in and not worry about what might be next.
“I do know that picking up a camera and doing a photo shoot in person again will be a beautiful feeling, but at the same time, if I’m feeling the virtual travel bug, I’ll know what to do,” Youssef said.
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