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Counting The Days: Visual Diary by Parastoo Aslanbeik

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At the start of the COVID-19 quarantine in Baltimore, artist Parastoo Aslanbeik began documenting her personal experiences each day. Aslanbeik was born in Tehran, Iran, but now lives in Baltimore after completing her MFA at UMBC’s IMDA program, currently working as a UX designer at Johns Hopkins’ Technology Innovation Center. She began posting her images on her Instagram as a way to share her daily experiences with others. This photo essay is narrated by the artist and offers a condensed version created specifically for BmoreArt’s readers.

 

It was late January that things went out of control back in Iran and I was worried to my stomach for my family. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to check my phone just to make sure that my parents were doing fine and nobody got infected by the virus. But here, people didn’t believe that the situation could get severe in the US as well.

I used to take the bus to work every day, looking at people living their normal lives while everyone back in Iran was in lockdown. For me and those who had a family in one of the high-risk countries, it looked like the calm before storm. Not long after, I saw more people with face masks on my daily commute, and the conversations at work started to revolve around COVID-19 and working from home. Then on March 13th we were told to pack everything from our offices and get ready to work remotely from Monday.

My husband and I decided to isolate ourselves and leave home only if necessary. During that weekend, I thought about a photo project to document my everyday life during this strange time and share one photo each day on my social media. It was a good mindfulness practice since it kept my mind busy and the negative thoughts away. I started from Sunday, March 15th, and used #selfquarantiningphotography to create an album both on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. Ever since, this routine has usually been the most challenging part of my day. I look for small things during the day and take photos either with my phone or my digital camera. Sometimes I don’t like any of the photos but I share one anyway. 

After the third month, I realized that the number of likes on my photos started to decay which ironically reflected the reality that we were living in. For all of us, the pandemic started with exaggerated emotions and behaviors but then gradually we got used to it and those emotions faded out. People were getting tired or bored of the new normal situation and just wanted to go back to their normal lives. I got tired too and started thinking about a reason to finish this photo project, but something didn’t let me. I knew I had to continue it until I had a “reason” to finish this photo diary, and I still haven’t found that reason. –Parastoo Aslanbeik

 

Day 1

Day 1: Starting today, I’m gonna post one photo daily from what I explore and find around myself that I usually ignore. Since everyone around the world is going through a similar experience, spending more time inside their homes and less time outside, I find it helpful to share the little things that I see with others.

As a photographer, looking has been always like meditation for me and since I’m working from home starting tomorrow, and avoiding going outside, it’s gonna be an interesting mindfulness practice for me to look at every small detail and explore them from a different point of view. I invite you all to do the same thing, look at your surroundings and find small joys or details that you have been ignoring. We are all responsible for not spreading the virus. Please stay safe and healthy and take it seriously!

Day 5

Day 5: The last sunset of the year (solar calendar) and we’re virtually “celebrating” the Persian new year tonight… Tomorrow is the first day of Spring. I keep repeating to myself: “What a time to live…!”

 

Day 8

Day 8: There’s something wrong with my plants. I checked everything and I think they might have gnat! But I can’t go out to buy a bag of potting soil to repot them.

 

Day 16

Day 16: There is a beautiful light shining through the window, which creates gorgeous shadows.

 

Day 25

Day 25: We were planning to visit Iran and our families after 4 years in March! Now it’s March and I’m just looking at their photos and the reflection of the outside world on these photos.

 

Day 28

Day 28: I was playing with the new Farsi/Urdu font that I’ve found on my phone. Took the picture and typed an improvised sentence without thinking. I was not even sure if it was grammatically correct.

Then suddenly realized it was the best caption for the photo: “whatever you see is going to live just for a second.” (Or something like that.)

The light and shadows of the sunset were changing rapidly. The light was gone. P. S: I love this font!

 

Day 30

Day 30: There was a storm today. One month so far.

 

Day 39

Day 39

 

Day 54

Day 54: I have been sitting on my chair for a long time and my back hurts. I lay on the carpet and see this light shining on the cushion which is sitting on the floor. I see lots of hairs on the carpet, ugh, this room needs to be vacuumed!

 

Day 59

Day 59: Today, I challenged myself to take a photograph with a 60mm micro lens. It helped me to focus on the details and textures.

 

Day 66

Day 66: Where is everyone?

 

Day 71

Day 71

 

 

Day 89

Day 89: It was a hard day at work. I was staring at my monitor for a long time. I name this photo “Power off”!

 

Day 99

 

Day 130

Day 130: There was a storm today.

 

Day 142

Day 142: Took this photo yesterday but forgot to post it! On day 143, I woke up in the morning and remembered that I forgot to post a photo on day 142! I felt guilty and posted the photo I took the previous day on my Instagram.

 

Day 146

Day 146: Well, it’s Friday. I am laying on the bed, it’s almost 5 p.m. and I’m ready to turn off my work laptop and turn on my personal laptop and relax!! Such a fun Friday!

The sun is shining on me, and I am so lazy to move and grab my laptop. I’m holding my phone in my hands and feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. I tell myself: This is going to be photo #146.

 

Day 149

Day 149: It’s almost 5 months! I’ve never thought I would continue this photo project for 5 months! It has become a part of my life! Is there ever going to be an end to this?

My photographer friend commented on this photo: “Have you realized that you’re taking more abstract photos lately? It’s like the deeper you dig in your life, the more visually distant you get from the reality!”
I was shocked!

 

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