Back in the halcyon days of, say, February 2020, when I was busy traveling for work, flying and Lyft-ing without a care (or a mask), when most everyone else was mostly living however they had always lived, worried about whatever they had always worried about, the thought of suddenly waking up to empty streets, quiet skies, shuttered businesses was the stuff of
dreams nightmares. Now, 17, 18 months later, well, it’s more or less normal and the novelty of it all wore off long, long ago.
But when it first started, there was a newness, a sort of optimism and wonder in some quarters. Many many people took the opportunity to start new projects: witness the uncommonly low stocks at garden centers and home improvement stores. And every photo/art/meditation podcast I listen to encouraged starting up a new project, take advantage of the time, etc. The Distant Zines I briefly reviewed earlier appeared quickly, but maybe the first—in creation if not publication—was Matt Day‘s Social Distancing.
Day jumped into the pandemic photo project straight away, and without hesitation: “…during the first week of the pandemic…. I walked around with my cameras, a few rolls of film, and made photos that resonated with the idea of distancing and isolation.”* And then he made this zine/booklet thing, with 100% of the profits going to a local food bank.
GoGo, Matt Day!
Now. With a set of photographs made over a 7 day span, with a couple of rolls of film, you might wonder about the content, the edit, pacing, etc., and I won’t lie, I did too, until I made a couple of zines featuring images from single rolls of film…
The edit and pacing and pairing of images works well enough, and Day has the renown and visibility to make a few bucks for the food bank. I’m glad to have contributed whatever I did to the cause.
Sadly, if this is the first you’ve heard of Day’s Social Distancing zine, you sorta missed out… Day put out a video about the project on April 18, 2020, the day the zine went on sale. Give it a watch: Day goes into his thought process, the production, edit, selection, pairing, and printing of the zine, all in 30 days. And after 30 days, Day shared some thoughts on the outtakes, then ended the sale.
There’s a little bit of that early-pandemic optimism in the project: if Day knew it would be 17+ months, maybe he would’ve set a longer timeline, or maybe made a series, or who knows? I don’t fault him for that: as the weeks stretched into months and then into years it became more and more unreal, or hyperreal, or surreal, or entirely natural, these ~500 and counting Groundhog Days for everyone, and who could’ve foreseen that in April 2020? And looking back, I sorta tried to think about something to do, but never could, and as the months slipped by, I ended up not, really doing anything. After all, not much really changed for me: my employer closed its north Texas office in 2018, so I’ve worked from home 100% since then; I don’t get out much anyway, avoid crowds and strive to social distance anyway. Oh well.
So kudos to all those that actually did something, made something, improved themselves or whatever. I’m not quite sure how many photographers completed projects and produced something during the first 17 months of the Covid pandemic, and I’m glad: it means I didn’t buy them all…
*Day, Matt. Social Distancing. Self published, 2020. unpaginated.