In anticipation on the global outbreak of Covid-19, artists all over the world initiated various ways to create from the confines of their homes. Among these ‘artistic outbreaks’ is ‘stayathome.photography’, founded by Yana Wernicke and Jonas Feige - two Berlin-based photographers. Their online platform supports showcasing photographic conversations between self-isolated photographers. The artists are paired based on what Wernicke and Feige think might produce the most interesting and diverse conversations, or photographers from various cities register as fixed pairs. Currently, there are artists participating from 52 different countries, creating novel visual narratives and genuine conversations.
GUP sat with Wernicke and Feige to discuss the details of their platform and future plans.
How did you come up with the idea of ‘stayathome.photography’ and could you please briefly describe the creative process that lead you to establish this platform?
When the isolation really started in Europe and our home country, Germany, we were actually stranded in Portugal where we had stayed for about two months. We thought it wise to return to Germany earlier than planned and suddenly got a sense of what the isolation was truly going to mean: we weren’t going to be able to see our friends, to be outside and to photograph. Just like everyone else, we were going to stay homebound.
The idea for the platform then came really quite spontaneously. What if we could connect all those self-isolated photographers, give them something to do, a reason to keep photographing (or to work with their archive) and a chance to not be so isolated after all? The concept of photographic conversations already existed for long, of course, but we figured that it could take on a whole new meaning and level of importance during these times – especially when incorporated in a platform where photographers could have those conversations without anyone else interfering or having to handle the technical stuff for them.
Self-isolated photographers from all around the world are having online visual conversations through imagery on your website. What is the philosophy behind such an online dialogue?
Firstly, and most importantly, it is a way of connecting with other photographers, be it friends or people you did not know before, as a means of breaking the isolation. As we watched the conversations on our website unfold, we got the sense that many of the uploaded photographs speak of things that might not or could not be expressed with words. There is a great honesty and often tenderness in them and it is quite moving to see such self-expression, allowing everyone else to look into personal lives and homes at this time. We wanted to tap into that potential by providing photographers with an easy tool, in the hope of enabling visual dialogues in contrast to the one-way communication of apps like Instagram.
(...) it is a way of connecting with other photographers.
(...) many of the uploaded photographs speak of things that might not or could not be expressed with words.
The project has received a lot of positive feedback, seeing an enormous amount of applications. How is this initiative evolving now?
We never expected the project to resonate with so many photographers. It is a great joy to see them engaging with the website and each other in that way. We received so many beautiful messages and the fact that the word about the project was mostly spread by the photographers themselves tells us that it really seems to fill a void.
Ever since we started, we received close to a thousand applications. It has slowed down a little, but we still receive around 50 new ones every day. Our goal is to keep the website as international and diverse as possible, but unfortunately there are limits to what we (as a team of two) and the website can handle. We don’t enjoy this part of the process and wish we could keep it open for everyone, but unfortunately, we have to be a bit more selective going forward.
What will eventually happen with stayathome.photography?
Once all of this is over, we would love the platform to function as a sort of archive of the time of isolation. We don’t have any plans at the moment and are mainly focused on keeping the website going. Having said that, it would of course be wonderful to turn this into a print publication, an exhibition or whatever else might be possible at some point.
The photographs accompanying this interview arrive from an image-conversation between Anna Malgina (b. 1989, Russia) and Jonas Berndt (b. 1998, Germany). If you would like to take part in stayathome.photography, you can register here.