Photography During Social Distancing: Recognizing Beauty Near Home

Being trapped at home for months is by no means a fun experience. With no end to social distancing in sight, I am becoming increasingly bored. Every day is approximately the same: wake up at eight, do my school work and attend synchronous meetings, eat dinner, study for AP tests, practice instruments, read books, watch YouTube, and go to bed by midnight. I barely know which day it is, but, frankly, it doesn’t really matter.

Yishi Wang
Photography has immense power for many. (Photo/ Yishi Wang ’21)

Photography, however, is the one thing that is bringing some spontaneity to my otherwise mundane schedule. I’m a member of the Photo Essay course, taught by the loving Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick. The class was supposed to be making a Blurb book on 90 consecutive days of single-frame photos but, of course, the pandemic blew that off course. With everyone stuck at home, Mrs. H has assigned new weekly tasks of photographing various accessible topics, including “Isolation & Sanctuary,” “The Kitchen,” and “Door, windows, and interiors.”

These are not obscure prompts. However, they are out of my comfort zone, which consists of urban documenting, atypical landscapes, and arrays of strange abstract geometric shapes and patterns. I’ve never considered my home as a photogenic place; it’s empty, ordinary, and horribly lit. 

But, over the past several weeks, I’ve learned how to work with this dark cave of mine. As I shot the corners of my townhouse, I began seeing my home through a different lens—both literally and figuratively. These are not thrilling photos, but they are accurate representations of my daily perspective.

Yishi Wang
Isolation during quarantine can be beautiful. (Photo/Yishi Wang ’21)

Shooting at home has not only exposed me to new styles and subjects but also encouraged me to look for beauty in ordinary places. 

Besides shooting at home for school assignments, I also take walks outside. I frequent a sidewalk that leads from my neighborhood to the Princeton Battlefield, wandering off along the way to shoot anything that intrigues me. It’s a trail that I had been on hundreds of times before, yet by focusing on simply exploring my surroundings without any constraint, I always find new specks of creativity.

Yishi Wang
Yishi Wang used his quarantine to explore photography in ways he had never tried before. (Photo/Yishi Wang ’21)

The pandemic has retaught me the essence of photography. I’m really not recording anything extraordinary here. The excitement level cannot match visiting a restricted urban landfill or chasing (and dodging) skaters jumping off steps. But photography to me isn’t about what I’m shooting and the results; it’s about experiencing the environment around me and expressing my artistic perspective. Photography without all the exciting bells and whistles is relaxing and equally enjoyable. It has allowed me to see the bleak world we currently inhabit in a different light.