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