1. How are you holding up?
This pandemic has confirmed for me the preciousness of life and how uncertain it really is. It also has me questioning just about everything from how we live in community, transportation, what we eat, to how we earn a living, which I’ve been doing as long as I can remember, but now there are a lot more people asking themselves some hard questions.
I am not interested in going back to “normal.” I never thought what we were doing as a society was normal. Here is our once in a civilization opportunity to course-correct, to shed the superfluous, and to get to know ourselves better.
There is a lot I am not missing, and so much I am finally getting to. Since lockdown, I’ve never been busier. Among other projects, I just designed and launched a new website for Perspective Group and Photography Gallery, an Evanston-based cooperative that I’m a member of.
I’m lucky to have a big backyard where I immerse myself in gardening and work on the patio. Being able to be outside while sheltering in place is a lifesaver.
As an extroverted introvert, I have enjoyed the newfound intimacy with others while connecting remotely. And no more FOMO.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
One of my ongoing, long-term projects is Picturing Evanston, a celebration of the city’s vibrant arts community and an intimate look at the artists, makers, and artisans who create here. For this project, I visit artists in their studios, take environmental portraits, and document their processes and spaces.
Of course, studio visits stopped because of Covid-19 and I started looking for other ways to support the artists and makers in my community. I began taking photos of the artists through windows or at a safe distance and posting them to the project’s Instagram feed to draw attention to artists and small, local businesses that were moving to contactless and online sales.
On my daily bicycle rides, I photograph my community in the time of Covid-19. A small tree on a vanishing beach in Evanston has become a symbol of resilience for me and many others as it remains standing against the onslaught of the high water eroding the soil around its roots. My Instagram posts of the tree seems to deeply resonate with people in Evanston and beyond.
Another long term photography project is a book documenting the changing Logan Square neighborhood called LGNSQ, for which I photograph street art and random stuff. Luckily, I am able to keep shooting murals and street environments during the lockdown. Soon after social distancing began I ran into Billy Craven at Gallery F and photographed him through the window. And then there were new Covid-related murals to photograph.
And then I started a new project specifically about life in the times of Covid-19 as experienced by my alter ego in Germany and myself here in Evanston, IL. Unfortunately, that is all I can reveal at this point.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
The slower pace, the minimal shopping, the fewer, but more meaningful contacts with friends and family. Instead of letting myself be bombarded by unnerving news bites, I started reading Letters from an American by historian Heather Cox Richardson each morning for insightful and critical analysis of the political dumpster fire we find ourselves in right now.
4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?
Chris Froeter started painting portraits of small business owners in Evanston and donates the proceeds of the sales to them. I also enjoyed Sir Patrick Stewart reading a Shakespeare sonnet each day, although I do not understand half of what he’s reading, I just love watching him read. Oh, and Jason Pickleman stepped up his IG game with live streams of all sorts, featuring artists, art, collectors, and even some risqué performances, like his nude, indoor burning manish dance. On the whole all the artists I am following seem to have switched to side projects or are digging even deeper into their ongoing work.
Joerg Metzner is a photographer and graphic designer living in Evanston. His website is: joerg-metzner.com