The Isolation Portraits Project - Part I
When all this Covid-19 nightmare started in the North of Europe, one day I read an Instagram story of a very talented photographer that I follow, Nadia Meli. She is great and has Italian roots, despite being raised in Germany (if I remember correctly) and currently living in the UK. She wrote that following an idea of a photographer that she loved, she wanted to start a series of online portraits of friends and unknown people around the world.
As she has thousands of followers, she immediately got a lot of requests to participate in her project.
I thought it was an amazing idea and that I would have loved to be in one of her portraits. No actions followed that thought.
One day I was on a video call with my friend Francesca. We were talking about work. Suddenly one of her daughters took the phone, placed it on the table and started painting in front of it. I thought it was a gorgeous scene and I took the camera I had beside me to freeze the moment. It’s there when I realised I could start my own version of the project. And I did. Because I’m not a photographer, nor a person with many followers on Instagram (and I’m living a phase of my life where I am very introverted) I thought to just involve my friends. I like the idea that you can also see part of my environment in the photo, not just the portrait.
After every session, I sent three questions to my friends, so to give a kind of portrait of the soul too.
– Who are you?
– Which languages do you speak and why?
– What does being alone mean to you?
I asked that this last question was answered in their mother tongue, to give everyone the freedom to really express their thoughts, because trust me, I know how frustrating it is not to be able to use all the shades of your thoughts when talking.
I met Francesca in 2017, when I was living a very though phase of my Dublin life. It was summer and I didn’t have enough work to feel safe and to see any sense of me being in Ireland. On Facebook I found out about an organisation called Mother Tongues, whose mission was promoting awarness on bilingualism. I thought it was very interesting and I contacted her to see if we could collaborate. My life changed quite a lot because that day I sent that email.
The story behind the photo below, you know it already.
I am from Rome and currently live in Dublin. I am passionate about art and linguistics.
I speak Italian because it’s my Mother Tongue. I speak English because I moved to Ireland 15 years ago. I also learned French, Spanish, British Sign Language and German and I have some skills in each of the languages but do not practice them anymore.
Stare sola per me significa essere con i miei pensieri e non avere distrazioni.
Being alone to me means being with my own thoughts and to have no distractions.
When I was 19 a moved to Rome to study at La Sapienza University. During those years, I lived with my uncle&aunt and my cousin Marco. Federica was one of Marco’s closest friends. We never spent much time together, because we had different circles of friends.
But now, six years after I left the città eterna, we are still in touch. I was very happy to help her out a bit with the branding of her amazing business, Elné (she is a very talented craftswoman; she creates beautiful jewellery out of recycled material!).
I believe we are very similar in so many ways, including being in constant pursuit of our place in the world.
I’m a 35 y.o. women with a younger soul. I was born in Rome but I moved to Barletta a couple of years ago. Barletta is the home town of my boyfriend and it is in the south of Italy, in that long area which is the heel of the italian peninsula. I lost my job for the coronavirus crisis so I’m reinventing myself (again) focusing on what I love the most : writing and make thing using my hands power. I’m a crafter in sustainable design.
Italian is my mother tongue, I also speak English because it was love at first lesson at primary school. I speak the worst French ever because I didn’t practice it for a very long time, but I can read it and understand it well.I learnt a bit of Spanish last summer, working in Barcelona for a couple of weeks and travelling around Spain in august and september.
Essere sola è una sensazione strana per me che sono un animale sociale. Alterno momenti di pace e profonda assonanza col mondo intorno e momenti di profondo sconforto perché la mia famiglia mi manca terribilmente. Essere sola è però anche una grande opportunità per ascoltarmi e riflettere sul futuro con lucidità. Non sono proprio sola sola: ho il mio compagno accanto e il nostro gatto Guinness, un raggio di sole nel buio della quarantena.
Being alone is a strange feeling for me, being a real social animal. I juggle between moments of peace and deep assonance with the world and moment of deep despair, because I miss my family terribly.
However, being alone is also a great opportunity to listen to myself and to reflect on the future with clarity.
I’m not really alone, though: I have my partner with me and our cat Guinness, a ray of sunshine in the quarantine darkness.
A couple of lines can’t contain even a small part of the things I shared with Romina in my life. She was the first person I talked to at the university, when I was completely lost in front of the lessons timetable. She was as lost as me, but from that moment we were lost together and that made all the difference in the world. Together we overcame the worst moments of our lives, but also share the happiest and most silly ones.
When the studies were over, we were once again lost together, but 9 years older. I pushed and convinced her to move with me to Ireland for three months. Which became 4 years for her. She now lives happily in Barcelona with her fiancée, met in Dublin a few weeks after we took that flight towards the unknown!
I’m Romina, I’m italian and I live in Barcelona. I love the beach and the sun. I like watching my favourite series on Netflix or Tv (Grey’s Anatomy is the favourite one).
I hate cooking!
I speak Italian because I come from Italy.
I speak English because i have been living in Ireland for 4 years.
I speak Spanish because now I am living in Barcelona; actually I should learn also Catalan, maybe in the future i will!
Non penso di essere stata mai veramente sola in vita mia. Da piccola giocavo con mia sorella, cugini o con le mie amiche.
Crescendo, avevo sempre qualcuno accanto a me. A volte si, mi piace stare per conto mio, pensare un po’ a me stessa, ma poi la solitudine si trasforma in malinconia ed è lì che ho bisogno di qualcuno.
I don’t think I’ve ever been really alone in my life. As a child I played with my sister, cousins or with my friends.
Growing up, I always had someone next to me. Sometimes yes, I like to be on my own, to take care of myself, but then loneliness turns into melancholy and that’s where I need someone.
Samuele is Romina’s fiancée. When they started dating I immediately pictured them together forever. They are just perfect together. It is so weird how clearly you can see someone else’s future and struggle so much to have any clue about your own!
I’m Samuele, an Italian living in Barcellona. I play bass guitar. I love reading and listening to music.
I speak Italian because is my mother tongue. I speak English because I’ve lived in Dublin for 6 years and I speak Spanish because actually I’m living in Barcellona.
Ho sempre avuto un buon rapporto con la solitudine. La prima volta che me ne andai dall’Italia ero solo, e fu un’esperienza molto bella.
Restare solo mi aiuta a conoscermi meglio, a crescere e migliorare. Posso coltivare le mie passioni e i miei hobby in tranquillità, cosa che mi rende molto felice.
I’ve always had a good relationship with loneliness. The first time I left Italy it was on my own, and it was a very nice experience.
Being alone helps me to know myself better, to grow and improve. I can cultivate my passions and hobbies in peace, which makes me very happy.
María José is my sister in law. We met for the first time in 2018, in Providence. When I saw her running towards us at the airport, I immediately thought Que chiquita! She is the same size as my mum and, like her, she is just a bomb of energy. She can move mountains to obtain what she wants and I truly admire her for that. Being a Venezuelan in the US, She overcame the impossible, but she managed to get back to her profession in no time. I mean. She’s got the Power! Did I mentioned that she also managed to get married to the guy who she was in love with since she was 4 y.o. despite the fact that they lived in different countries for over 10 years?!
I am Maria Mora, a Venezuelan dentist, currently living and practicing in Boston, USA. I enjoy spending time outdoors, discovering new cultures and sports, however, I also love and appreciate the tranquility of my home.
My native language is Spanish and I usually speak Spanish with my family and friends, but since three years ago, I moved to the US, I also speak English under daily basis.
Realmente aprecio y disfruto mis momentos en soledad, me permiten pensar, reflexionar y concentrarme en mí como persona. Mi profesión y mi pasión es la Odontología, lo que me lleva a tener días ajetreados y con mucha gente alrededor, así que confieso que en ocasiones extraño estar en silencio, y es justo en soledad cuando lo puedo conseguir, me hace sentir centrada y en calma. Entendiendo que estar a solas no significa que me encuentre sola en la vida, disfruto de cada momento conmigo misma.
I really appreciate and enjoy the moments when I can stay on my own. It allows me to think, reflect and focus on myself as a person. My profession and my passion is Dentistry, which leads me to have busy days and many people around. So I confess that sometimes I miss the silence and it is just when I am alone that I can get it. It makes me feel focused and calm. I understand that being alone doesn’t mean that I am alone in life. I enjoy every moment with myself.
Satomi is the sweetest soul. We met in 2014 at the English Academy and somehow we managed to stay in contact when she went back to Japan. So when she moved to the UK last year, we met in London for a day and that was so nice!
With Satomi I discovered and tried to understand the Japanese culture and way of life, which is so so distant from the European. I think that is the best part of my Irish experience, being in contact with people from all the corners of the world.
I’m Satomi, Japanese living in London. I like traveling, shopping and exploring new things.
I am a Japanese native speaker because I was born and raised in Japan. I speak English because I have been studying English for a long time. When I was 14, I thought it would be fun to live abroad and make foreigner’s friends and finally my dream has come true!
Being alone feels lonely, but it’s fun. Imagine being excited, thinking about your future goals, feeling sad with a cup of coffee, and so much more happening!
I hope that Google translate was faithful to Satomi’s thoughts!
The first part of the Isolation Portraits Project ends here. Share the article if you liked it!