Photography Taja Spasskova

The photographer portraying isolation and loneliness in lockdown

When Taja Spasskova found herself feeling suffocated during lockdown, she knew that claustrophobia would become the subject of her new series.

by Rolien Zonneveld
26 May 2020, 1:00pm

Photography Taja Spasskova

About 10 weeks into global lockdown, we're still collectively adjusting to a new spectrum of daily emotions. There’s acceptance, complacency, exasperation and frustration... sometimes all at once. But whilst many of us struggle with feelings of anger and emptiness -- this lonely period only exacerbating confidence issues that were already there -- others have managed to discover new routines, ones that were actually a better fit than those previous.

Someone who has been exploring these complex and often contradictory emotions is Prague-based, Belarus-born photographer Taja Spasskova. When the pandemic hit the Czech Republic, Taja was amazed to see how rapidly the world around her changed within just a couple of months. Once she’d accepted the situation, however, she was able to find a certain stability, despite everything around her feeling so turbulent. Not one to sit still, she decided to shoot the series Isolation, in which she interrogates themes of deprivation, isolation and loneliness.


Fascinated by a girl named Tia Gronlund -- an art student from Canada on exchange who found herself stranded in Prague -- Tara asked her if she would shoot the series with her. "I’m from Belarus and when the pandemic arrived in Eastern Europe, I was immediately very worried about my family members back home," Taja explains, referring to president Alexander Lukashenko's initial dismissal of the coronavirus threat in the country, which caused it to spread rapidly. "I felt like it was important to work with someone who shared this experience of being in lockdown, while being so far away from home and family. Shooting Tia I felt this great connection -- there seemed to be a lot of parallels between us."

In the series, Taja's made use of objects that symbolise the pandemic for her: face masks, gloves, iPhones, foil, disinfectant wipes and photos of home. "I used the foil to express the feeling of isolation and the blocking out of physical contact -- something we've all been deprived of. Foil for me is a symbol for barriers and separation. Plastic indicates suffocating, like the world around us is shrinking."

While the series has quite a dark undertone, Taja herself sees reasons to be optimistic about the future. "The situation with Covid-19 is a real drama, but even with all the negatives, we have to be optimistic. Every crisis sparks incentives to change -- to transform the world we are living in. Prague was unusually empty over the last couple of months, but so many initiatives arose from the get-go -- it truly was an atmosphere of solidarity and empathy. People united and volunteered. We're facing a period of fundamental change, and that process might be quite traumatic but the future definitely lies in dialogue, collaboration and solidarity."



Photography Taja Spasskova