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Isolating With You
A Photograph by KC Nwakalor
He brings himself close enough to the mirror to fill half the picture. The other half is a cramped melange of possessions, and includes a woman with a self-assured though quiet demeanour. It is the picture of a man taking measure of his affairs—an open laptop computer, a rag on the floor, a folding chair, the pile of books on a small speaker, a mini-fridge, a fan—but also the measure of a woman as possessing of constrained space as the pile of clothes on her wardrobe. An intimacy shared between people and the things they make life with, a version of love.
KC Nwakalor: “I take photos to inform people about a situation, to bear witness.”
The photograph was taken in Abuja, Nigeria.
This project—Isolating with You, Malichá—is a visual diary that captures the triumphs and tribulations that my wife (who I fondly call Malichá) and I endured as a result of our extended self-isolation after our abrupt return from the UK. To date, COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 1 million people globally. In response to the global pandemic, Nigeria, like other countries, went into lockdown, restricting movement and economic activities. With the lockdown came a lot of emotional, mental, and financial stress. But in the mix of it all, we were able to learn, understand each other and grow through the process.
The pandemic brought a heap of devastation and a complete shift to people's lifestyles and ways of living. Despite these unprecedented changes, there have also been positive accounts of families being brought closer together, the rise in innovation, and a general appreciation for life itself.
The need to find a safe place in the midst of these uncertainties and turmoil is something that is essential to everyone’s well being during such trying times, and what I aimed to capture through the project—allowing viewers to experience certain struggles with me and yet find their release in something familiar to them.
I used a small point and shoot camera to make this photograph. Just staring at the mirror in our small studio apartment, I could see almost everything we had and the most important person to me—my wife—in that small reflective frame.
It was a difficult time. I had tons of my assignments canceled as a result of imposed travel restrictions; so it was a mix of so many things. But there, in that tiny frame, I captured all that mattered. This is what makes this photo special to me.
In general, I approach photography first as a journalist. I see photography as a repository of facts; I take photos to inform people about a situation, to bear witness. So I care more about the story than the technical stuff or aesthetics.
Photos are very impactful because they can communicate to different people regardless of race, language, and so on. Photographs are easy to disseminate and are mysteriously simplistic but complex enough to trigger a viewer's imagination which can lead to action.
Two other photographs by KC Nwakalor
Both photographs are from the series Isolating with You, Malichá.
Support KC Nwakalor
KC Nwakalor is a photojournalist, documentary photographer & producer based between Abuja, Nigeria and Manchester, UK. His work focuses mostly on humanizing real socio-economic, health and environmental issues that exist within the African continent and African diaspora. He is the co-founder of No Wahala! magazine. More about his work can be found on his website, and you can follow him on Instagram.
Last Week — Chris de Beer-Procter
The image stirs very warm memories for me, not only of the space I was in while I took it, but because of the moment between these two boys which feels so intimate and exciting to me. There's a sort of pure joy, trust and thrill in the split-second capture. I think it's at once familiar for the viewer and completely unique to these boys.
Read more: Bodies of Water
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This is the 32nd edition of this publication. Every week I feature one photograph and the photographer who took it. You’ll read a short caption from me, and a statement from the photographer. My goal is to set up conversations with the work of early to mid-career African photographers. If this newsletter was shared with you, consider subscribing, and if you have already subscribed, forward to a friend who loves photography.
African Photography in Real Time: Tender Photo at the Windham-Campbell Festival
This year, I was honored to be one of eight awardees of the Windham-Campbell Prize. Next week, on Thursday Sept. 22, as part of a week-long celebration, I would be in conversation with Cajetan Iheka about Tender Photo at Yale University: the impulses behind starting the project, the range of work I have featured, and what directions I'm taking in consolidating on what has been done so far. More details here. If you are in the New Haven area, I’d love to see you, and if you’re elsewhere, you can stream the entire festival live.