A Covid-19 Isolation Photography Series

Before and After is a photography series that features the abandoned streets of Toronto captured during the coronavirus pandemic. During lockdown I spent four months isolated in a small apartment downtown and had the majority of my life put on pause.

When phase 1 of reopening started I was eager to get back outside, to get back to normal life. Much to my surprise when I left my apartment, the streets were completely abandoned. It was a surreal version of our new reality. I started walking the empty streets and photographing everything I could because I knew these were images that would never exist again in my lifetime.

Before and After from Lossless Creative on Vimeo.

Before and After

The name Before and After comes from the idea that time has now been marked. People will use it as a reference and say things like, before coronavirus and after coronavirus. This series captures a moment that represents a global shift. It is that in between time that we went from before the pandemic to after the first lockdown.

Familiar and Strange

It took me some time to understand what I was photographing. At first I was drawn to the empty streetscapes because it simply looked interesting but after an hour or so it began to feel unreal, sort of like a dream, something that was both familiar and strange at the same time.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the images and to me they are powerful because they are uncanny. Meaning they show a version of reality that is a little bit unsettling because it resembles real life but it is also unknown or seems to be fake. It is a psychological phenomenon that happens to humans when they try to make sense of a familiar situation but something just seems different. These images contain this sentiment of the uncanny but I also think it's a good way to describe my feelings of the pandemic as a whole.

I think at the end of the day these images will mean different things to different people, and that is the beauty of art. Everyone will have their own interpretation of what they are and it will speak to the viewer individually. For me though, they really have captured the uncertainty, isolation and strangeness of the pandemic. One hundred years from now I hope someone comes across these photos in an archive and is able to feel those emotions in the images, to get a freeze frame of the in-between moment, the moment in the middle of the before and after.

All images on DELTA Professional 100 & 400 film © Brad Freeman