Artist and photographer
lives between Palermo and Rome, Italy. Fulvia Bernacca Her series, “Lockdown Portrait Stories” documents individuals and families in lockdown around the world.
“That in the post-war period there was a desire to dance that made light” are the words of Francesco Guccini, Italian singer-songwriter, that accompany me and illuminate my thoughts in this period of lockdown. With the desire to break this sense of isolation, I went to visit my friends near and far and spontaneously started to make portraits of them. I did it the only way I could in this period of social distance, sitting at my desk, during a Zoom video call and through their webcam or smartphone camera, taking a screenshot from my computer. I asked them to share with me also a song that is accompanying them in this lockdown to create a sort of soundtrack for the project. Friends and then also strangers, they welcomed me in their homes, in their intimacy, sharing moments of a new daily life, thoughts and reflections on this moment of isolation, and I have looked for the positive side, more enlightened, of every space and every story. I have travelled a lot in this period, staying at home, feeling close to the people portrayed, documenting an unimaginable lockdown, sure to find ourselves soon together out there and with a desire to dance that will make light.
Alice and Federico are neighbors and lovers. He has a small garden, she has a small balcony. Together they share a communal terrace and love for tango. In these quarantine days, they have chosen to isolate together, and sometimes they go up to the terrace to dance. “The thought that’s been going around in my head for a few days is this: changing the principles on which our hearts are based! What do we do now? I hope it ends soon, but not before we’ve turned people’s hearts into positive ones.”
“Being a doctor right now in Milan means not only being isolated when you stay at home, it means living with the fear of catching this virus when you go to work. Many people live giving importance to things in a way that I find crazy, absurd. I hope that this world tragedy will make everyone think about impermanence, about the importance of the present moment. I would like everyone, once the quarantine is over, to find the courage to admit who they are and what they really want. Finally, I hope that everyone understands the scam of selfishness, which consumer society has so praised. Thinking about others is the only way. Helping our friends to realize their lives is the fastest way to become good at ours as well.”
Mauro and Federica have been in lockdown since the 10th of March. Retired grandparents, they haven’t seen their three grandchildren since then, and they are also awaiting a fourth grandchild. Used to often being connected to their families, this is a big change. “Luckily technology helps us feel closer. So, for example, this morning Mauro has helped Elio, his older grandson, with math exercises, through a video call obviously.” “Our sensations? In the morning, in the sunny balcony, tranquillity and trust. Melancholy and worry during the afternoon. “It was now the hour, which homeward turns the longing, and melts the heart of those that sail the sea,”
“And Love. We need more love” Chiara, an Italian living in Paris, is in her fifth weekend of quarantine, living in a very small and typical apartment in the center of Paris: 26.5 square meters. She tells me about the first moment of panic, as soon as the confnement was announced, when she asked herself, “how did we get used to living in a sardine box?” And how her emotions quickly fluctuated. “I had the proactive week, the super active week, the week I was trying to think about the future. Every day that passes the future becomes more blurred, it’s not new to me, because I have an unstable and precarious job, but before I could dream, now I can’t. This week has been the hardest week since quarantine began. All my energy is focused on keeping my emotions in balance. When I listen to the radio and the number of deaths every day, when I think of my grandmother alone with cancer, when I see my friends through a screen and would like to hug them, when my legs would like to cross the city, when the closure of theaters, cinemas, concert halls will remain so until further notice. When I wonder what this new order will be and when. My traveling companions are the thieving pigeons and magpies, the Parisian roofs, the illuminated windows of my neighbors, the stars, the moon and white clouds. The only moments of pure joy are afternoons in the light and warmth of the sun. And I say to myself: It’s funny how nature saves and destroys us.”
Flaminia lives with her mother Giuliana in Rome. Like everyone in Italy, they have been in solitary confinement since the beginning of March. In their dialogues the sense of disorientation and the difficulty of understanding the actual state of affairs emerge. Giuliana and I met on this occasion, she was very happy to see me, she seemed to have known me forever, and several times she invited me to visit her at home. I promised her that I will do it soon.
Alessandra, in quarantine since the end of February, in her house in Milan. Since the beginning of the emergency she has been working remotely, her house has become her world and her neighbours her family. “At first I thought: wow finally some time for me, I can write and devote more time to my projects, by working efficiently you earn precious hours. Lunch and coffee with the neighbours and singing Lucio Dalla drinking Chianti and Zibibbo on Saturday night. What a joyful quarantine! In fact, there is still joy, but in the meantime also anxiety and frustration have arrived. I feel a little claustrophobia, but the irony is never missing. And the hope that the world, once this emergency is over, will become better comes up against the cynicism and defeatism of myself and others. I like to think that the universe never does anything that is not perfect.”
Eleonora lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, since 3 years and she is now living her third week of quarantine. She is a gymnastic teacher and University researcher. In these days of lockdown she starts to give gym online lessons to keep in touch with her students. When I ask her what she is learning from this situation, she says: “To have patience, to give myself time. Sometimes I ask myself what gives value to something: the effort and time put in to achieve it. This thought helps me to have patience.”
Luca lives in the Testaccio neighborhood, in the center of Rome, with his family: his wife and two sons. They are very lucky to have a communal terrace in their building. Time-slots are allocated among the neighbors to access the balcony. They can go up in the afternoon at around 4pm for an hour. Together with his children, they play ball with hanging clothes delineating the playing field.
Sara lives in St Albans, north of London, with her partner Tomas and their daughter Emma. They moved to the UK years ago to give Emma a better future. Today, while Tomas is working from home, Sara and Emma are practicing aerial yoga into the garden and are enjoying these days together. Despite the situation, there is beauty in this lockdown.
“I moved to Sydney on November 21, 2019 to follow the dream of living across the ocean and doing biomedical research. It wasn’t easy from the start, with fires, foods and homesickness. I moved three times bouncing from one apartment to another, from bed to sofa, until a month ago when I moved permanently to Coogee with Tony. A Filipino, born and raised in Sydney, Antonio, aka Tony, promised to teach me how to surf and not be afraid of sharks. But now, after two weeks of quarantine, I’m just afraid to forget why I needed to leave for the other side of the world. I wake up at 6:00 every morning to go running along the coast. Often I stop to look at the ocean and waiting for the whales I repeat to myself “everything flows” and this situation too will eventually flow away! What will remain, however, will be a great halo of sorrow, for those who are no longer there, for those who have lost someone or for those who this quarantine has turned their lives upside down. In two months I won’t be working anymore and I don’t know how I will survive, but one thing is certain: strength is the source of happiness and patience is the key to victory. I’m here now, and I work every day on being aware of that. I don’t worry about the afterwards, I have faith.”
Yulica lives in Amsterdam, she moved there from Rome 5 years ago. Neither she nor her boyfriend are working due of the lockdown. So they decide to spend the quarantine together, in his home, which is bigger and quieter. They moved the sofa in front of the big window in the living room, and spend most of the day reading book and chatting from there, looking outside.
…we’re fighting an invisible enemy, the best strategy is to stay at home… Ilaria has been in quarantine since March 12th, in her home in Doha, Qatar, with her son Simon and her husband Pancho. She works more than usual, remotely, and has created a small workstation in her bedroom near the window. Staying at home, she can enjoy the family more. “I am learning to pay attention to all my son’s little gestures, to the value of time and its good moments. I feel protected at home, two words accompanying me in this moments: active lethargy. I am living relationships with patience and understanding. What do I expect after this? A humane, natural rebirth with the true values of life.”
“Martina and I have been in quarantine for a month. We have been living together for 3 years now and luckily we have this balcony where we spend most of our days, reading and studying. The sun helps, and the clear blue sky which is the same everywhere… so we can travel a bit with our imagination. Luckily a great innate talent that we all have as human beings is to adapt, and so all this will simply be another period of transition. I’m optimistic about the future! I always have been. So everything that’s happening is going to make us and the country I love and that’s my home, better.” “It’s not an easy time for anyone,” Martina adds, “but among the many negative aspects, I found some positive ones, which we all too often take for granted: the importance of relationships, companionship and affection. Surely we’ll be more aware of that, once all this becomes just a memory”.
Emma (92), my grandmother, and Cristina, have been living together for 3 years and in quarantine since 1 March. Grandma starts to forget things, and often does not recognize us, this period is not good for her, but luckily we often make video calls. Cristina, caregiver, calls her children in Romania every day. They are also in lockdown. “Every day” – Cristina tells me – “we walk on the terrace, we joke with each other, as if we were two friends, we watch television, we learned to live together as mother and daughter. This period is difficult, but when it will pass, I expect to find more serenity, happiness and love on the streets”
“I am thrown against the sky I am raining down in pieces I am scattering like light” Giulia lives with her mum and dad. They are among the lucky ones to have a private terrace in the center of Palermo. In addition to studying for national exams, which have all been postponed, she decided to dedicate most of her time to an old dream: learning to play the guitar.