Explore Stephen Lovekin’s photo projects “Words at the Window” and as he shares his experiences photographing self-isolation in his New York neighborhood.

Photographing self-isolation wasn’t something anyone discussed a few weeks ago. But in an extremely short time, lives around the world have changed.

Self-isolation is one of the top response tactics for managing the outbreak of COVID-19. But capturing images of this is a challenge of itself. How does a photographer actually capture photographs of people self-isolating, where the whole premise behind isolation is to avoid contact with other people in order to limit the spread of disease in moments of crisis?

Enter staff photographer Stephen Lovekin, and his project entitled “Words at the Window.” As more and more people choose to stay indoors (whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not) to limit the community spread of the disease, Stephen started photographing families isolating in Brooklyn, New York from their windows.

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What led Stephen to “Words at the Window”

“As a photographer, I have always loved and been drawn to shooting portraits — a process that allows a connection to be made between the photographer, subject, and viewer.”

When the project began, Stephen didn’t necessarily settle on the idea of photographing everyone at the window. “Some people would come on their porches or stoops, but that just didn’t feel right to me.”

The World Health Organization impressed importance of self-isolation and social distancing in countries around the world. So, it’s important to accurately represent what this truly means in images like the ones in this project. Photographing people staying indoors at a safe distance through their windows seemed to be the best way to achieve this project.

The choice of photographing people isolating themselves through windows was intentional, with the window providing more than one meaning for Stephen as an artist. “The window is something that we look out on the world from. Something that literally frames how people can look in on us and how we look out at the world. Something that normally, we do not enter or exit from,” says Stephen. 


Photographing self-isolation and social distancing

“When the spread of Coronavirus began to rapidly increase and people were ordered to ‘self-isolate’ and practice ‘social distancing,’ I began to feel compelled to document this unprecedented time in our history,” says Stephen. The project began by reaching out to people in the artists’ neighborhood, seeing what message, if any, they would like to share with the world, whether it be personal, political, or spiritual. 

Messages of hope are essential to times like this, as they bring communities together in unity. For this photography project on self-isolation, messages of hope were pivotal in the artists’ work.

When photographing self-isolation and social distancing, it’s important that as photographers, videographers, and creatives documenting this experience practice what we preach and photograph responsibly, following the guidelines identified by WHO and global scientific and health leaders. 


What “Words at the Window” hopes to achieve

When asked what he hopes the project will achieve, Stephen says that “in this time of chaos and uncertainty, I hope that this project will help people feel more connected to the outside world.” Now is the time to band together and support each other, spread messages of community through social media, and projects like this where we use the skills we have as photographers to safely document this pivotal moment in our lives and history.

Update: Stephen Lovekin’s latest project “From in the Car

Since publication, Stephen has embarked on a new photography project in addition to Words at the Window- photographing the streets of New York from his car. In the image series, he shares images framed by his car- depicting safe social distancing between himself and his subjects while staying creative. As photographers, we all do what we can to stay creative during times of stress. Take a peek at the full photo set here.

Stephen Lovekin’s In the Car Series

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