art photography coronavirus lockdown manila
All photos by the writer.

Filipino Photographer Finds Art in Isolation

Confined within the four walls of her apartment in Manila, photographer Jisa Atrero tried to make sense of our new normal with her camera.
20 April 2020, 9:22am

It’s been over a month since the coronavirus lockdown in Metro Manila started and most of the 12 million people living in the Philippine capital remain in their homes. The self-isolation has had different effects on different people, but for photographer Jisa Atrero, 30, it became a much-needed creative exercise.

I have been stuck at home for over 30 days. Alone and confined within the four walls of my studio apartment, I became restless and anxious early on in Metro Manila’s lockdown that started in March. I am left with nothing but my thoughts and by the 14th day, I started to panic about how I would survive this new normal, without losing myself. While I tend to love my own company, I also enjoy having people over.

The news was too heavy to bear and social media only provided temporary relief. Finally, one day, I decided to pick up my camera and started shooting. Despite having been a photographer for four years, it had been six months since I found inspiration. My quarantine became an unexpected creative push, forcing me to see things differently.

After living in my apartment for over 10 years, I thought I had mastered every corner. But isolation forced me to look at every nook and cranny with a fresh perspective. I found light where it did not shine before, shadows in hidden places, and appreciation for the most trivial objects.

The window in my living room is no longer just a light source, but one that gives me a glimpse into the outside world. Through it, I see vendors, people walking, and dogs lounging. That very same window brings in a golden glow at exactly 3 PM every day. The dining area, where I’ve had countless meals, is now a place of refuge and gratitude. Whether my food is simple or extravagant, it will now always be a blessing. A nylon bag filled with scraps no longer looks like forgotten rubbish but is now a great reminder that everything is important.

Isolation begets stillness, and in this stillness, I found beauty. Through this photography project, I found the light in the dark in more ways than one. Apart from the lights and shadows in the photos, it has helped me make sense of the new world we’re all in.

art photography coronavirus lockdown manila

Golden light shines through the closed window.

art photography coronavirus lockdown manila

My kitchen with the lights off, a symbolic reminder that no matter how dark it gets, there will always be light to guide us, especially in trying times.

art photography coronavirus lockdown manila

Bananas from Kuya Ricky, our neighbourhood street vendor who sells produce like vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish. I have a new sense of gratitude for Kuya Ricky, an unlikely frontliner in this pandemic.

art photography coronavirus lockdown manila

Our neighbourhood ice cream vendor continues to roam the streets despite the lockdown. The ring his bells make gives a much-needed sense of normalcy during strange times.

art photography coronavirus lockdown manila

A nylon bag I ignored before the lockdown is now my new favourite subject.

Find Jisa on Instagram.