We might be instructed to stay at home for now but it doesn't mean that the outside world has stopped turning. It has, actually, continued to thrive and has given one artist an idea for extracting and collating brief digital sceneries from web cameras all over the world to tell stories of isolation.
As a photographer, it is very likely that you have had to readjust your creativity while the world is dealing with the virus pandemic and it is possible that you haven't picked up your camera for weeks. Some of us turn to shooting personal projects at home, some are still catching up on editing backlog, some have picked up finishing DIY jobs they have been putting off for months, and others have turned to simply looking after their home and their mental and physical wellbeing just to survive through these strange times.
An artist from Austria, Janick Entremont, currently attending the Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie in Berlin, Germany, has found his own unique way of expressing himself and exploring the world while we're on lockdown. Without leaving his home, Entremont finds and extracts brief clips from public online web cameras from every corner of the world to create a compelling visual collection, allowing the viewer to bring globalization home.
Having been interested in the visual medium from an early age, Entremont used to apply a more technology-based approach, such as, exploring the inside and the functional principle of a camera. But, after years of gaining experience, content matter took priority. His work gives viewers insight into "places they would normally not get and let them live through moments they would normally not experience". The underlying goal, while experimenting with different genres and techniques, is to seek out people and their stories.
When the first moments of isolation surfaced, Entremont began feeling the uncertainty and the unknowing while on his way from Berlin to Art Festival in Innsbruck, Austria. A flurry of cancellation e-mails landed in his inbox and the media also began to catch up in informing the public. Next thing you know, the borders were closed and "nothing was like before." While processing the current situation and events, Entremont began questioning his own duty as a photographer and how he could make the most of the terrible situation. Not really a familiar situation in regards to the extent of a world wide pandemic but the artist had already been used to reacting to impulses from the outside, so the transition was natural.
Being at home yet having access to reach distant places through a click of a button is fascinating. Staying at home and keeping yourself and others safe is part of the solution to the current situation but it doesn't mean you have to extinguish that passion for discovering and exploring the world. Entremonts reasoning was, "why work with just one camera, as usual, when we have access to thousands?" when he started collating these sceneries from web cameras.
He spent a lot of time searching and observing public web cameras accessible online. The project seemed appealing because it's a new approach to tell these stories, albeit a challenging one. The process requires you to sit in front of a screen for hours on end, which becomes exhausting. Definitely not as enjoyable as the "regular" way of traveling.
To find these webcams, Entremont used a variety of websites that have sorted them by region or other keywords. If he had a particular location or part of the world in mind, Entremont searched for them directly but other times simply worked his way through different websites and webcams, usually using multiple tabs open at the same time. Initially, it was a fun process but understandably after a while became exhausting.
The approach to recording the visuals was by using a phone, allowing for more flexibility with framing and avoiding a large amount of data to process from high definition and 4K webcams. This saved a lot of time and was more practical, too. The screen and pixels you see in his visuals also added to the aesthetic.
For creatives from different types of arts this time can be challenging because we all deal with the situation differently and not everyone is able to currently express themselves creatively. However, because the use of Internet allows us to easily get our work out and seen, it is something that artists should consider to make the use of. Not just to share something for artistic consumption but also to stay in contact with peers to maintain at least some normalcy.
Entremont encourages others to pursue personal work and projects without any expectations but as an urge. It could be a reaction, a visual diary of how we feel, or a simple expression that turns frustration and the unknown into something tangible. It does not need to make any sense today but in a few months and years, when you look back at this period in your life, whatever you created in this time will have grown in meaning to you. It may be overwhelming to plan any personal projects right now but if you do, try and break it up in small steps as you would with any task and do not get distracted from your end goal, Entremont suggests. This gives you some structure but still allows flexibility and freedom to deviate and experiment with what feels right at the time.
The project, titled "corona.webcam" is viewable on Entremont's website. It has given the artist a feeling of control and purpose when the surrounding environment is so unpredictable. The project, created as a response to today's events, is seen by the artists as a "piece of work as part of something bigger". Who knows what the future brings but artists will always find a way to creatively process the world and its events to show the viewers their way of seeing.