The Brooklyn photographer and conceptual artist Ventiko normally conducts her practice entirely in her studio. But as New York City entered lockdown, the sudden onset of self-isolation compelled her to devise a new way to capture images—from six feet away, for a series called “From the Outside Looking In.”
“It was inspired by looking at what had happened around the rest of the world,” Ventiko told Artnet News. “The naivety that it somehow wouldn’t affect us here in the States, and then watching the city and everything that I had known as normal disappear almost over night—it was pretty terrifying.”
On March 21, as the state prepared to enter lockdown, Ventiko took out her bike for the first time in years and set out to visit friends who also lived in Brooklyn, photographing them from behind doors and through windows, or on the street as they peered out from fire escapes. (Rest assured that Ventiko is taking appropriate safety measures at all times: “I’m wearing two masks, I have gloves, I have hand sanitizer—I’m beyond paranoid. As soon as I come in the house, I take off all my clothes and shower,” she says.)
“Words, images—nothing seems able to relate the emotional experience that we’re all sharing—so I just started documenting,” she said. “I just want to contribute to the history of humankind.”
Ventiko hopes that the photographs illustrate the ways in which we all remain connected despite the physical distance currently keeping us apart.
The project is an emotional one for the artist, who is a New York resident of over 13 years and who lives alone. Each portrait session lasts about 20 minutes—”it’s like this unspoken feeling that we have to stop, that we’re going to get caught”—before she gets back on the road. The longest of these solitary journeys was to Riverdale in the Bronx, which took nearly 12 hours roundtrip.
“The city gave me life and now I’m peddling through the streets and there are trucks of the dead,” Ventiko said, her voice breaking. “This is a place where so many people come to find themselves, and it’s really tragic that it’s a place where so many people are being lost right now.”
The series consists of striking, evocative tableaus, shot through doorways and window frames. And even in these uncertain times, Ventiko found that many of the greatest things about New York remain the same: its resilience, its beauty, its strength.
See more photos from the series below.