A year into the COVID-19 crisis, professors at the design school are encouraging Instagram users to connect with one another through photography.

By Emma Kahmann.

With the international COVID-19 crisis creeping its way towards its first anniversary this month, it’s fair to say our perspective on the objects we utilize everyday has changed over the last 12 months. To document the changes this period of isolation has brought us, the Observational Practices Lab at Parsons School of Design has invited those of us at home to participate in a global project. Called the Atlas of Everyday Objects, the project invites Instagram users to post image grids of the items that have taken on a new meaning since the start of the pandemic.

The photography experiment, created by Selena Kimball and Pascal Glissmann, Co-Directors of the Observational Practices Lab at Parsons School of Design, devised the project as a way for participants to share their isolation experiences on a global scale. The professors found inspiration for the Atlas by, perhaps appropriately, observing the same cup of water everyday during their own isolation, which sparked a general interest in objects that play unique roles in our lives during the pandemic.

“We are using everyday objects as a way to bring attention to unseen or overlooked aspects of current issues within society,” state Kimball and Glissmann when describing the aim of the project. The Objects of My Isolation Atlas demands participants to learn from each others’ perspectives by observing the objects they use everyday and how they perceive those items, which may defamiliarize someone with what they believed they already knew about it.

Participants around the world can share their grid of selected photos on Instagram with the hashtag #objectsofmyisolation or can send a photo grid to the Observational Practice Lab who will post it on their Instagram page. There is no end date for the Atlas, which will continue to grow as long as participants use the hashtag. Thus far, the imagery includes the likes of empty bags of flour, coffee mugs, and pets. “I selected to represent what kept me grounded. I see now they reflect a time when the smartest thing I could think to do was live in the moment, while still holding the teeniest hope for the future,” states Pune Dracker, a student at Parsons School of Design. Dracker says although her grid of an empty coffee cup, blue bandana, and potato sprouting eyes weren’t aesthetically pleasing, she describes it as a “photo without any filters.”

With Zoom serving as the primary means of educating students this past year, it’s easy to get fatigued with the same routine every day. Kimbell and Pascal say that participating in the project means taking a break from technology in an attempt to understand each other’s lives behind the camera. “It’s a lot of fun but also allows us to learn more about each other’s situation and create a sense of social presence,” the professors told Mission.

While the coronavirus seems to have a never-ending timeline, according to Kimbell, the Atlas of Everyday Objects submissions have become increasingly outdoorsy and coffee-heavy since the original submissions began. “We should come out of this pandemic really good looking and caffeinated—and, well, with a bit of a hangover (in numbers, wine seems to beat beer…),” she explains.

Image credit: @paraplu_paraplu, @anne.h.liddell.1, @millersartroom