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How have photographers turned containment into a source of creativity?

Crisis, COVID-19, containment…How can people keep in touch, have fun and above all remain creative during this period?

Discover how those involved in photography have reinvented the profession, developed new creative ideas, and even managed to revive the world of photography, which has been largely forgotten during this crisis!

Creativity is born out of constraint

Ideas, reflections and challenges have been born during this long period. In order to counter their boredom, professional and amateur photographers decided to create in different ways, taking into account the constraints of confinement, the impossibility of travel, very limited travel…

Focus on oneself

The confinement has allowed a few people to refocus on themselves and to photograph themselves, creating original self-portraits with settings representative of today’s world. Several artists and amateurs took up the challenge of taking pictures of themselves in each room of their house or living space, and shared the idea on social networks, the new digital exhibition space.

Blurred man's face with beams of light in black and white
Blurred man's face with a beam of light

Deserted streets…a new space for exploration

Some wanted to immortalise the deserted streets and wide boulevards to give an apocalyptic side to the crisis, or to show how when Man is no longer there, nature takes back its rights. Striking images, notably of a photographer in the Pays de Gall facing 5 goats walking on the pavements and passing in front of a wool shop…This photograph shows us that the frontier between nature and Man is really minimal.

Photography of white goats walking in a street taken during covid, quarantine and containment, when photographers were looking for new sources of inspiration, finding it in funny and unusual moments

Everyday life revisited

Others captured moments of daily life transformed by social rules. For example, banal scenes of family life became subjects of photographs. Photographing outdoors or indoors, the tendency was also to take pictures of scenes of life through a window. 

The confinement or democratisation of the photographic gesture

According to Yvan Plantey, journalist of France Culture, containment has become a source of inspiration for almost anyone with a professional camera or a mobile phone. Photographers have shown that inspiration can be found even when enclosed between four walls, and that the interior is a place where one can create, dream, and above all, compel other people to dream.

Challenges and more challenges: a collective experience

Another ray of light during COVID confinement has been the challenges: several companies, organisations and bloggers/youtubers have proposed photographic and video challenges, both with and without rewards.

Let’s take the example of Go-Pro, which proposed an online competition open to all and to all countries. It consisted of sharing one’s best photos or original (extravagant) videos on the main social networks — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok —  accompanied by the hashtags #HomePro and #GoPro.

Participants in the GoPro Challenge were able to express their creativity with slow-motion, stop-motion and real-time content. Whether it was science, music or anything else, the internet users were present and really enjoyed putting themselves on stage during their activities or everyday life, in an original way in their environments and places of confinement. Many people who were unable to travel or do their outdoor activities invented and put in place tricks to be able to practice them in a different way and share them with others thanks to the photos and videos published on social networks. In particular, Philippe Klein’s stop motion descent inspired many, and the #inspiredbyphilippklein was born.

Here are a few videos that have been made:

Travel photographer Jonathan Bertin, also a youtuber, also issued a challenge. Stuck at home, he came up with the idea of building the project #ConfinementCreatif, a movement that encourages people to express themselves artistically while staying at home. It’s a whole new challenge for him since he’s used to traveling, outdoors and the great outdoors! 

To launch this challenge, the photographer took part and photographed himself in his flat taking his self-portrait. The challenge was to make a photographic series. This contest attracted more than 400 participants (pro, amateur and beginner) and in the end, several people were rewarded.

With these challenges, companies and photographers help us to adapt, and accompany us in changing our habits. In doing so, we are guaranteed to have fun and create while being at home.

Artist's photo of a young woman covered with a white veil with white flowers
A person illuminated by a video projector in a dark room
Artist's photo of a jar of water with a face behind it, illuminated by light in a dark room, taken during lockdown

Interacting at a distance / Relationships at a distance

In this turbulent world, social networks are a place to keep in touch with friends and family, to get information and to have fun. According to the Global Digital Report’s study, during containment, social network users have reached 4 billion worldwide and the time spent on social platforms has increased by 15%. In addition, the Instagram and Snapchat platforms have greatly increased their number of new users in the 3rd quarter of 2020. By the end of 2020, 53% of the world’s population was using social networks. 

Instagrammers are noticing this increase in popularity: publications are getting more visibility. Interactions between influencers and their community have also increased. As a result, the use of social networks to launch challenges is essential. They allow internet users to sometimes overcome the loneliness of isolation and to stay informed about what is happening through photo trends. Sharing content on social networks also allows for high visibility across all countries. The photos and videos published and the hashtags used create links between users. These new spaces for virtual exhibitions of works and creations aim to showcase culture beyond physical borders and allow access to all. The virtual exhibition no longer has a physical location, but this does not deprive it of visibility. Moreover, as it is registered by users, it remains frozen in time.

Birth of challenges for entertainment

During the confinement, a lot of “fun challenges” were created on social networks, notably on Instagram, a social network dedicated to photography and video. Internet users do not lack imagination, inventing all kinds of entertaining content that anyone can enjoy and contribute to! 

One very entertaining challenge has inspired the whole world. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles launched a challenge on Instagram to recreate well-known works of art at home. These “homemade masterpieces” made with sheets, pins and toilet paper to represent the decorations were very much appreciated by Internet users. Launched in March 2020, the #GettyMuseumChallenge now lists almost 55,000 publications. There are numerous representations of emblematic works, from offbeat versions to “works of art” very similar in style to the originals.

A woman disguised as on a painting, photographers looking for inspirations during containment
Abstract photo of a man with his face covered, recreating Magritte's painting, taking during containment when photographers were looking for new inspiration

In the same spirit, the @tussenkunstenquarantaine account invites followers to take pictures of themselves in  recreations of their favourite works. With more than 271,000 followers, the challenge was relayed with the hashtag #TussenKunstenQuarantaine by many French museums such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille and the Musée d’Arts in Nantes. The results were just as appealing as the originals…The real artist is not necessarily the one you think it is!

Another photographic and artistic challenge was launched by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, around the theme of #OpenWindow and #WindowOverOther. These challenges consisted of taking a photo of the view from one’s window and someone else’s window. They each resulted in 22,878 publications and 15,931 publications. By sharing their “view on…”, the web photographers invite other web users to travel through their photos. Who wouldn’t dream of a beautiful view of the sea or the mountains?

View of a sunny countryside through a dark window, #OpenWindow challenge to allow people to travel virtually during containment
View of a village through a window, a table with a vase of flowers and a hat on it, representing the research of inspiration of photographers during quarantine and containment
View of the sun-drenched sea through a dark window, #OpenWindow challenge to allow people to travel virtually during containment

Also, to “pamper” yourself and do a good deed is possible!

The “My Fashion Week Quarantine,” a fashion and photo challenge, was quite a sensation. All you had to do was take a photo of yourself during a “typical” confinement activity (reading, cleaning, cooking…) in a totally offbeat outfit (too much, chic, evening wear…) with a “fashion photo” pose and the poster accompanied by the hashtag #Fashion Week Quarantine. A link to a donation page is provided, created especially for the occasion to benefit the Paris Hospital.

Woman with a mower in a garden, representing the time during quaratine when photographers tried to turn every activity into a fun way during containment.
A woman leaning over a bookshelf, holding a book with her hand

The COVID confinement ultimately allowed us to grow our creativity.
Remoteness and isolation have become ways to explore and create differently. 

Photography has definitively been a part of our escape, and sharing photos on networks has helped us to travel, communicate and stay productive from our couch.

Thanks to all the photographers who helped us to get through this period even without an exhibition!

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