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Lockdown Lens: Vision 20/20

By Azadeh Ghotbi


Azadeh Ghotbi in her isolation place, London. Spring 2020


What has changed most for me since the lockdown is how I avoid looking at others outside but stare at them inside!

What still strikes me every time I step out is not how quiet the streets of London have become but rather how eyes no longer lock in.

One still crosses paths with others in parks, on sidewalks or in grocery stores but no one looks into each other’s eyes anymore.

We walk by with our eyes fixated on the ground, the horizon, our worries or shopping lists. Anything but the nearby stranger’s eyes.

It’s as if we subconsciously see anyone and everyone as a potential risk factor. Avoiding their gaze eliminates facing that reality that they could get us or our loved one sick. L’enfer c’est les autres?

We cover our faces, we cover our hands but mainly we go to great lengths to avoid the other, zig zagging, stepping back, crossing streets, making unusual body gestures.

I noticed my own gaze changing dramatically over the last five weeks. More than ever I stare down! My gaze focuses mainly on objects, patterns, and shadows. Not people. It’s as if I was wearing lockdown lenses that have skewed my perspective. In fact I started a new photo series based on what catches my attention on these walks:

The contrast of behaviour is most startling when comparing that to how we have become accustomed to engaging with others, indoors.

Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, HouseParty, and myriad other video calling devices are forcing us to interact in idiosyncratic ways. We now stare at others, eyes locked in, for significantly longer than we would in prior face to face situations. We can in fact be staring at myriad eyes all looking back straight at us. We do so knowing that we’re safe as long as gazes are just on screens.


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