‘Virtual Reality’ by Nigerian Visual Artist, Kamnelechukwu Obasi is an exploration of what friendship and intimacy looks like whilst in isolation. The shift from physical communication to virtual communication due to nation wide lockdowns caused by COVID-19, have drastically affected peoples way of life and mental health. Millions of people across the world have been and are still being affected by this global pandemic, with many still having to experience isolation alone away from friends and family. Kamnelechukwu uses photography as a tool to explore her friends experiences of being alone, but does so in a rather unique way, by taking screen shots of them through Zoom and FaceTime.
“I was living with my friends, and seeing how everyones reaction was different despite being enclosed in one space was interesting. We had flatmates only coming out of their rooms once every two days and not speak to anyone, you could see everyones different personalities and how they were each trying to figure things out” explains Kamnelechukwu. The portraits of her friends taken in their private environments, offers an intimate view of the 4 walls that they have been enclosed in whilst self isolating, enabling the viewers to relate with her subjects due to almost everyone having gone through the same experience.
“I deal with depression and anxiety and thought that this isolation period was going to be really bad, but it was the opposite! It felt like I had been preparing for a pandemic my whole life, so seeing people who had never been diagnosed with depression, descend to such a low point due to not being with their friends led me to feel really connected to them.” Studies have shown that there have been a significant increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety especially amongst adults under the age of 34 during the nation wide lockdown due to COVID-19. Kamnelechukwu’s images reflect not only the isolation period that her friends endured, but also the coping mechanisms of some of them during this period. The choice to use a rather different photographic medium such as taking screenshots of them posed via Zoom and FaceTime, created the illusion that the viewers were also communicating with her subjects through these mediums. Kamnelechukwu’s unconventional approach to image making, creates a different experience for the viewers, allowing them to engage and connect with her subjects on a personal note due to also having to make the shift onto those platforms or similar ones in order to communicate with loved ones.
“I was taking self portraits during the pandemic to capture my process of being the ‘queen of capitalism’, working 9 to 5, to being at home. I started experimenting by taking pictures with my camera of people on my phone until I came across this method” revealed Kamnelechukwu. She went on to explain her editing process, “every photographer that I know uses Lightroom or Photoshop, and I have always been a fan of ‘using what you have’ and what I have is my phone! I have an app on my phone that I used to make the post production effects, and deliberately chose to edit the images to black and white to reduce any possible distractions.” Aesthetically, her images allude to the passing of time, insinuating that years have gone by which creates a historical and vintage feel.
“Sometimes when you are stuck inside, you feel like your life is spiralling out of control, so the big advice I would give to anyone making work during this period is to slow down! Be comfortable with not being able to do anything, because sometimes when you feel like you need to make work, you end up losing what is important which is the actual experience of making work.”
Kamnelechukwu Obasi is a Visual Artist, whose sole aim is to encourage self-expression and is focused on dismantling stereotypes surrounding identity, sexuality, beauty standards, love, ancestral beliefs and religion, and online culture. To view more of her work, visit her website.