Still Lives Text
“Still Lives” is a photographic collaboration between two professional architectural photographers. Scott Hargis, based in Oakland, California, and Mike Kelley, based in Los Angeles, documented the architecture of “shelter in place” by using videoconference software to conduct remote photoshoots of people’s homes around the world.
The photographers conducted over 50 “virtual” shoots in more than 15 countries. The locations range from a low-income neighborhood of Lagos Nigeria, to a small village in Greenland, as well as cities such as New York, Sydney, Bordeaux, Auckland, and Phnom Penh. Luxury high-rise condos in Dubai appear alongside a tent on the streets of Oakland. Whimsical scenes and boisterous children compare with quiet moments of introspection.
During the live video calls, Kelley and Hargis directed their subjects to precisely place their laptop or phone to achieve a perfect composition. Then, working with the available light, they called for curtains to be opened or closed, and lights turned on and off, etc., until the exposure was optimal. When every element was complete, a screen shot was made to capture the image.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced billions of people around the world into varying degrees of social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine. While the basic experience of “stay-at-home” living is easily translatable from one culture to another, the physical environments are unique to each individual. This photo essay seeks to explore the effect that one’s environment has on the otherwise unifying experience of self-isolation.
These intimate photographs carry the video graininess and digital blur we’ve come to associate with communication during social distancing, but they also contain an authentic record of life during the pandemic. The images are instantly relatable, even as the diversity of the physical environments becomes apparent.