Published by The Washington Post | September 23, 2020
The global coronavirus pandemic has altered our outward world in dramatic, visible ways. Ghostly city streets. Empty restaurants. Silent public spaces. But for millions in isolation, it has also had a deeply intimate impact. It altered our inward worlds.
During a time when billions have been asked to distance themselves from each other, technology allows us to collaboratively explore both the commonalities and the diversity of our inner experiences across the distance.
We posed the question on social media: ‘How do you define home, and has that changed during the pandemic?’ The response was dozens of voice messages from over 25 countries, sharing intimate experiences with mental health, domestic violence, family relationships and more, as they relate to being confined at home. To visually illustrate this, we filmed and photographed throughout our own homes.
The world has been asked to stay at home for our own safety, but what does HOME look like?
“It’s been a month and a half of being totally locked at home... It can be really frustrating because sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m like ‘Oh god, is this going to be exactly like yesterday?’”
- NICOLE, ITALY
“I feel the quarantine in my body…. in confinement, you feel your body more. I feel the pain and I think that more people are having trouble sleeping because we are constantly reminded of the presence of the disease.
And so it is very difficult to forget about this.”
- MARTA, ARGENTINA
“I don’t feel safe mentally just from being stuck here.
I feel trapped almost in my own mental states. I can’t break some of the bad habits that I have just because I feel like I can’t leave the house. I feel trapped by the actions of others who aren’t taking the virus seriously.
And I also just feel trapped by the unknown, not knowing if a family member has brought the virus here. It makes me feel unsafe in my own home especially because I have asthma and I’m more at risk. I just almost have a feeling of distrust in my own house because I don’t know who has brought the virus home, and it’s just a big mental battle.”
- SARAH, UNITED STATES
“Home for me now is the environment, it is the woods, it is the parks, it is the people I love, the people I work with and I enjoy working with. It is also the animals, the other species who we share the planet with.”
- MICHELLE, MEXICO
“I experienced new difficulties that I have never experienced before, due to the Covid 19 stay home order. Staying at home without going anywhere at all is totally a new experience for me, and also never planned ahead for this. Because of this pandemic and lockdown system at home, I have to adapt to the new normal daily routine.”
- AKEN, MYANMAR
“I just felt so scared that I would get all this animosity as a foreigner here. I look Chinese. My citizenship is from the United States. But I was focusing on stuff that doesn't matter. But sticking to my gut feeling -- that I am my home wherever I am -- helped me decide just to stay and not plan and to enjoy my personal inner journey as well. I really overcame a lot of paranoia and fears that I was conditioned to have. And I’m very, very thankful for that.”
- VIVIAN, USA, LIVING IN INDIA
“I work in essential services at a community center in SE Washington, DC distributing free meals. With the Coronavirus, my home has become my respite and a place of calm in the evenings to retreat to after busy and stressful days. It’s also tidier than it’s ever been as it’s the only space I feel like I have control over right now.”
- ANONYMOUS, UK, LIVING IN THE USA
“The pandemic situation created another dimension of “home." My family is spread all around the world… Because of the coronavirus, especially because it’s a pandemic so we all feel worried about everyone, we try to call for some news regularly. We created this virtual “home” space. This space where we would talk, exchange, give news.”
- ALEX, FRANCE
“Defining home for me is kind of like hitting a moving target. It’s always changing whether it be the people or the places that get added to my definition of home.”
- LEO, USA
“For a few years now, we have been trying to make babies, if I may say so. We’ve been talking about it and trying it for years without success, and being confined together to spend so much time with each other has finally allowed us to devote ourselves to this beautiful project. It turns out that it has not worked yet but it does not matter, it has reconnected us well! In fact, we had neither the excuse of work, nor the excuse of fatigue, nor the excuses of busy schedules so as not to dedicate ourselves to each other and take time for ourselves.”
- FLUER, FRANCE
“I lost a family member during quarantine. Which is a very weird experience to go through when you’re on lockdown and you’re not living in your home country. But it’s also difficult for them: you know, they didn’t have a traditional funeral… they didn’t really get that moment, that traditional moment, that is so culturally important for grief.”
- GABY, PUERTO RICO, LIVING IN SPAIN
“Personally, I’ve lost a job due to COVID-19. And when you don’t have a job, it means you don’t have food on the table.”
- VICTOR, KENYA
“We the Rohingya have to face much more difficulties for maintaining social distance in this concentrated camp. However, we have been trying our best to be protected from the infection. But unfortunately, several days ago, a few people were infected in our camp and I saw their condition that is so horrible, as they suffered from high fever, cough, breathing problems, and so on. And I was scared so much.”
- AFIF, ROHINGYA, LIVING IN BANGLADESH
“I look forward to the day when home is more than myself. I look forward to a permanent home, and it’s times like these that make you long for comfort and consistency. I look forward to a time in the future where I can attribute those feelings to a location or a person. But when I do reach that point, I’ll reflect on this time: a time without comfort or refuge. And upon reflection, it will make having found a home that much better.”
- CAPRIELLE, USA
about this project
“Defining Home During a Pandemic” is a collaborative, multimedia project that combines the voices of people from 26 countries around the world with poignant imagery created by our photographers throughout quarantine to explore the meaning of home -- from home. It is an ongoing, visual diary providing an intimate glimpse into how this global pandemic has reaffirmed or altered people’s definitions of home, as well as the emotional and psychological impacts of those evolving definitions.
This project is not, and cannot be, fully representative of the global experience during this pandemic, but it does offer a raw, unfiltered look into some of the transcendent emotions of what home can signify for individuals around the world. This includes exploring the emotional impacts of those who have been without a home during a time when it’s so necessary to have one: the longing for home, home as a trap, the loss of home, home as fear. During this unique moment in time, our goal is to go beyond the breaking news cycle and delve into people’s inward worlds to capture the collective mood of where many of us have spent most of our time during this pandemic: home.