How does our mind’s eye view the world without us? The images of vacant spaces, once dynamic, capture a departure from our everyday norms and instead present an alternate reality absent our presence. Is this one of the reasons I find urban exploration photography so captivating? Urbex environments are like alternate realities emptied of human life. Urbex imagery exposes how swiftly we can become estranged from our everyday lives and how our surroundings can suddenly become fragile and tenuous. The urban explorer uses the camera to show where we once were but no longer are.
Just like my urbex photo representations, the COVID-19 pandemic drives abandonment to a new alternate reality level. Images of evacuated streets and institutions make our common spaces unfamiliar. While life quarantined indoors in late spring 2020, I captured some of the external environment emptied of life. As I shot the silent streets, I often felt alone in a desolate haunted space – and unlike abandonments, the setting was neat and tidy – unnatural to my urbex eye.
So many images of city life assume that hordes of people are always present. In the time of COVID, such scenes exposed only a few lonely figures, if any. The bigger picture, though, is that the fear of the pandemic has fostered a new fundamental fear – the fear of each other. These photographs exposed how swiftly we can become estranged from our everyday lives and how our surroundings can suddenly become something unstable. Images of empty public spaces, similar to photos of abandoned sites deserted for decades, reveal the myth that we are indispensable to such space existence. Instead, we lived in heartbreaking silence. When will things return to normal? Will they ever return to normal? Dramatic reality reshapes our mindsets and forces us to absorb and internalize everything as we solo-walked through our new alternate reality.