March 24, 2020
Today at 2.49 pm a column of smoke rose over a building close to home. People gathered on the street, elbow to elbow, watching the flames turn into a big white cloud as firemen extinguished the fire. Barbara, my next door neighbor I had never met before, came out in a pajama and a woolen hat to throw the trash, and stood on the sidewalk observing the scene. She’s 65 and hasn’t gone out in two weeks, she can’t even go to church, she told me in a Guyanese accent.
Elements of danger attracts us, instinctively. Fire is the first on the list. Seductive, destructive, comforting, hypnotic.
I’ve been trying to find a seductive aspect in the invisible danger that’s paralyzing the world these days. Viruses aren’t as sexy as fire, nor as theatrical as war. Plus, this time the trouble is not someone else’s. People of the privileged parts of the Earth in 2020 are suddenly poorer, scared, confused, and are asked to give up a kind of individual freedom that felt sacred, till the day before yesterday. What keeps my mind awake is the awareness that I’m living history firsthand, witnessing humanity’s reactions as a scientist and a guinea pig at once. It’s hard to predict the long-term consequences of unfolding events, but in this case, aside from the glaring tragedy linked to the loss of lives and the economic downfall, I wonder if anything good will come of this.
Moments of crisis strip us naked, and whether we’re spending time alone or living with others, there’s nowhere to hide. I’ve been forced to ask myself what my priorities are, I heard from people I would have never thought I would talk to again. I realized I should close the door to a man who got too real too fast. I’m not hearing the familiar call of the City that’s always asking for more. I asked myself, after many balloons popped at once, what’s my daily life made of.
The answer didn’t make me stumble. My life is made of people I’m good at choosing. But there’s a lot of noise all around, noise that normally keeps me from thinking clearly, from finding my rhythm. Today I put music on and took a long shower. I spent it wondering what New York will feel like after this, knowing that she, as well, won’t certainly be the same.
Song: Leifur James, Suns of Gold
By Gaia Squarci
Gaia Squarci is a photographer who divides her time between Milan and New York, where she teaches multimedia at International Center of Photography. She’s a contributor of Prospekt agency and Reuters. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vogue, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, among others. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Italy, France, Switzerland or in the UK.