• Charlie Ubbens

Before And After

This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "COVIsuals". Through visual stories, our curators research how people are dealing with and visualizing the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

As soon as you press play and the video begins, the suspense sets in. In a short documentary, Ryan Freeman captures his brother's process of creating a covid-themed series titled “Before and After”. In this series, Canadian director and producer Brad Freeman records the period of isolation Toronto experienced earlier in 2020, during the very start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Using his Leica M3, he goes out and produces 40 images on a black-and-white 35mm film, taking advantage of the impact that the black-and-white induces to further express his message. The photos depict modern buildings and streets, yet the black-and-white tint takes us back to unfamiliar, more distant, and quieter times. The ongoing pandemic is a different time, a new era for which we have not been prepared.

As Brad says:

“Being isolated during the height of the pandemic felt like a dream, it was both familiar and strange at the same time. I set out to find some sort of normalcy only to realize the world as I knew it had changed. The streets were completely abandoned, a surreal version of our new reality."

Images of silent streets, deserted subways, isolated shopping areas, and abandoned roads highlight Freeman's vision. It's an uncomfortable sight. Streets that are usually busy, filled with human life, now empty and still. In his work, Freeman combines storytelling with a unique style of ‘cinematic beauty’ as described on his website. It is precisely this state of discomfort that Freeman wants the observer to experience: a digital rendering of his, and likely our, emotions during this phase of 2020.

Research by the University of Tilburg discusses how the world's current situation "leads to increased inequality within the younger generation, for example, because of the differences in which parental help can be called upon". Other studies reveal that one in three young adults in the Netherlands labels their current lives as "insufficient". The same study describes how the overall situation has had a profound impact on their daily lives and triggering mental health issues. The bottom line is young people are struck hard by this pandemic. In an interview, Freeman also discusses how he was struggling with anxiety through these months of isolation, his pictures displaying this sentiment of emptiness and strangeness.

“I had a lot of anxiety during lockdown, it was a time full of uncertainty (...) Being a creative person I was looking for some sort of outlet after being alone for 3 months. I went outside when phase 1 of reopening the city began, but everything seemed to be abandoned."

Some posts imply that Brad's photographs must have been shot early in the morning since even at the highlight of the lockdown, these streets were not as empty as here displayed. We cannot confirm... However, in Brad's defense, this series is a reflection of our daily life - whether staged or not -  in the past year and thereby a fair visualization of how individuals are coping with and seeing this pandemic. We can only hope and wait that our life will eventually resemble the image of normality we've previously experienced: bustling sidewalks, packed squares, and busy shopping malls. Or shall we seek to re-imagine normality?

About the artist:

Brad Freeman is a director and producer with a deep passion for the craft of filmmaking. Projects that he works on consist of documentaries, broadcast commercials, and digital content. He brings a unique style of cinematic beauty and authentic storytelling to everything that he works on. Brands that he has worked with include Shopify, Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, Interac, City Of Toronto, Reebok, Mark’s, The Macallan, United Way, Canada Life, Cervélo, Pantone, Blue Mountain, Knixwear, Rockefeller Foundation, and many more.

Check out the photographer's full series at https://www.lensculture.com/projects/1341522-befor-and-after

Bibliography/Further Reading:





Let us know what you think in the comments! Our themes always include three photo series by different photographers. Are you interested and do you want to stay posted? Make sure to follow us on Instagram @wearecurators.

Written by Charlie Ubbens

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