Portraits in Quarantine
While in lockdown Jorge Vargas and his family developed a portrait series that explores the signs of the times: ambiguity, uncertainty, contradiction, dislocation, isolation, fear, hope. What at first appears to borrow from the visual language of fashion quickly shifts to darker introspective studies on the human condition. Party dresses mix up with pajamas, sleeping bags, strainers, and goggles turn into representations of the collaged feelings of pandemic life. Frisbees as necklaces, fruit baskets as hats, messy hairstyles and pan-ethnic scents combine with fictional religious iconography and a homely flavor. What is up, what is down, how do we all live through this thing that is much too large for us to even grasp. Vargas’s two daughters, Indra and Athena, serve as the models for this series, further layering the work with commentary on the family unit, intimacy, and that awkward wobble we all take between youth and adulthood.
Utilizing black and white photography Vargas gives the series almost a documentary clinical sheen, strengthening the emotive weight by stripping away any bits of unnecessary visual clutter, in this case color and background. His images are both romantic and apocalyptic, powerful and delicate.
“Pandemic times are all about constraints. We manage with whatever we have at home, our modern times Noah’s Ark. In that sense the portraits are also a metaphor of real life. We chose to recreate the world from scratch with the elements we have at hand — or in the back of the closet. The project is a collaborative family initiative. One of the things we enjoy the most is to let our multi-generational energies flow. They combine to create a surreal output that would be unthinkable from an individual perspective. My wife Karina works heavily on the pre-production, I take care of the composition, model direction, lighting and other technical aspects and our daughters, Indra and Athena, do the modeling, adding their fresh ideas and spontaneity.” –Jorge Vargas