A revealing series of self-portraits during the quarantine
Here we are again. These profiles were photographed and written during the spring months when we were first introduced to the virus, when the city was in full lockdown, and before our focus shifted, appropriately, to this new civil rights movement. But here we are again. We present these diaries just as when they were written: vulnerable, real time snapshots by the individuals who experienced them.
By Lee Chase IV, May 2020
The first couple of weeks were the hardest – being home alone for that long when you thrive on social interaction is a beast.
Photography has become such a crucial part of my life, not just incorporating myself, but anyone else I can involve or cool things I would find out in the world.
I did a 365 project running from October 2018-October 2019 where I shared a smile every day for a full year. It is the most rewarding photo endeavor I have taken on so far, and I’d been trying to think of a new one to follow it up.
Nothing had come to mind by the time quarantine began, so now I had to figure out how to stay inspired in my home space with only myself (and a cat) as the subject.
My attempts to tackle writing projects proved to be a challenge.
I wrote one piece, something that normally would have taken three or four hours to hammer out took me four nights to complete. Four nights, working a few hours a night!
I felt defeated.
My house was starting to seem so small, like the walls were closing in and suffocating me.
It was even becoming difficult to stay on task with my regular job, which I adore, because I was getting so restless being in the same place for such a long time.
By week two, I caught myself pacing. A lot.
Knowing I had to practice a creative outlet to keep me from going completely bananas, I finally got serious about brainstorming how I could inventively photograph the inside of my house. What angles could I use so it would be hard to tell I’d shot in the same room twice? What lighting schemes could I pull off with lamps or a light source from a nearby room?
I was also still exercising five days a week, so as time passed I came to realize how comfortable I was with my body, maybe for the first time in my life, and maybe I could explore that through my pictures.
That opened a whole new door of possibilities.
It’s been a unique journey, to be sure, and so far only a couple of interesting photos have resulted, but I am confident more will come as I continue to experiment.
The feedback I have gotten from my pictures, which I am calling “Life During Quartime,” has been the motivation I needed to see where this new avenue takes me.
It’s helped me feel alive again.
Lee Chase IV is a lifelong Memphian who spends his days as the Adult Program Coordinator for Literacy Mid-South. On the side, he dabbles in writing, photography, and watches an obscene amount of movies. His first 365 photo project, titled “The Smile Project,” can be found on Instagram under the hashtag #leessmileproject. For more, follow Lee on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/leethefourth/
The Quarantine Dairies, Memphis:
On Monday, March 23, 2020, in the first of many safety precautions responding to the oncoming Coronavirus, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued the “Safer at Home” shelter-at-home executive order that directed all Memphis residents to stay inside their homes unless “absolutely necessary to take care of essential needs.” All over Memphis, people from all walks and disciplines adjusted to a new way of life, almost entirely from home: teaching, working, holding online meetings, coping. With this profile series we have captured a sampling – Memphians willing to share their quarantine diaries. Compiled from submitted stories and various contributors, this series gives us snapshots of a variety of voices around the city and presents a part of the narrative that is the ever-changing landscape of 2020. StoryBoard is currently editing our compiled snapshot stories for publication – we are also collecting more stories for as long as the pandemic continues.
Edited by Kristin Jones and Mark Fleischer