Creative Quarantine: Photographer Francesco Romero

Francesco Romero

1. How are you holding up?

I’ve to be honest, I’m mostly good. Despite this pandemic had a strong outbreak where I live (Italy), our free health system provided the population all the care and attention they needed. This doesn’t mean everything has been handled perfectly though. The health system got this close to collapsing in several regions but it held up in the end also thanks to people strictly complying with the countless (and sometimes confusing) regulations they had been given. As a matter of fact, not having to be concerned about having to pay for your medical care is a huge plus when going through difficult times like these. I see what’s happening in some other countries and as far as health systems go, I honestly feel privileged to live in Italy.

We’re now slowly going back to our normal lives and the focus has switched from health to economy. Are we sure “normality” as we used to conceive it actually worked? I believe we all should learn to respect others more. It sounds simplistic but it is really that simple.

WHAT’S LEFT: Desertion, emptiness, decay and isolation have always been my main subject in photography. In Ballard’s words: “Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time.” and recently this particular subject and theme has become something objectively contemporary, a shared global experience due to the pandemic we’re going through. © Francesco Romero

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

No, it actually didn’t. I mean, I’ve obviously gone through some mental processing during this time but I can’t say Covid-19 had a strong and relevant effect on my work. The biggest part of my photographic research have always revolved around absence, isolation, emptiness and other dystopian themes. Most of my shots could have easily been taken during the lockdown but, as far as my creativity goes, I decided I didn’t want to take advantage of this situation and I took a temporary break. Everything stopped, people had to close their shops, stopped their cars, stayed home sacrificing their social lives and sometime putting their financial future at serious risk. I honestly didn’t feel like wandering around empty cities to take pictures I normally take with just a little more patience and exploration. It felt too easy and honestly a bit in poor taste too. Mind me, I’m not criticizing those photographers who opted for documenting these times, it just didn’t feel like my thing.

That being said, when the lockdown started I can’t deny I felt the urge to say something. I wanted to challenge my creativity in some way so I worked on a series of self-portraits. I never take pictures of people so shooting myself felt like a real challenge. Well, I was wrong. One may like or not the final result but that’s not the point. It just didn’t feel like something relevant to my creativity so I decided to stop together with the rest of the world and observe and reflect.

“What’s Left” is a collection of photos I took in Toscana, right before the quarantines began. Actually a very few of them were taken years ago but I believe that only speaks to the timelessness of the subject itself. Even though the location is very specific, they are devoid of geographic markers and the inherent emptiness taps into something primally human. © Francesco Romero

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

Nothing related to my creative process. At the same time I’ll be trying to focus even more on eco-friendly behaviors and respect towards other fellow humans in my everyday life. I’m not so sure humanity as a race will get better after Covid-19 but that isn’t a justification for not trying to be a better human myself.

This series have been shot purely instinctively and I think it adds another layer of residuality to the photos. No more thought and effort, just what is left after years of pursuit after beauty in emptiness itself. As a person, our consumerist, Sisyphean nature bothers me but that is at best the sub-text of these images. I go after the rhythm and the beauty. Where it falters is the unspoken message. As with our shared isolation, what we make of the emptiness, what remains afterwards will be up to us individually. © Francesco Romero

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Any artist who approached this difficult phase of our lives with sincere creativity and intellectual integrity. Anyone who did stuff because they really felt the urge to do stuff. Anyone who really challenged their own creativity as opposed to being yet “another voice” in the chorus just to claim their existence. Anyone who has been able to actually say something and those who just decided to step back and slow down for a while. Peace everyone!

These images represent a tiny excerpt from a series that currently counts over 130 shots that I would like to collect into a photographic monograph someday soon. © Francesco Romero

What’s Left | © Francesco Romero

What’s Left | © Francesco Romero

Francesco Romero is a former musician and producer whose current artistic output is photography. You can follow him at…

His website
Open Doors Gallery

…and on Instagram