In this series we asked artists and photographers to share photo diaries of life in quarantine.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
“My wife Meg and I are staying at our house in Nuvali, Laguna. It’s just the two of us, three of our rescued dogs, and the newest member of our family, a three-month old Jack Russell Terrier. If it was any day outside this pandemic, a regular working day for both of us would be dropping the dogs off at my parent’s place in Alabang and going to our shoots wherever it may be in Manila; it’s been months since we’ve gotten on SLEX, more so Metro Manila.
“In the beginning of the quarantine, we didn’t have what you would consider a ‘regular day’, the first week or so was filled with broken schedules—constantly picking up on news and updates of the virus, gathering data on which nearby shops were still open, ensuring the safety of our family members in the city, and so on. The first week or so was sort of us acclimatizing to the reality of what was going on; everything we had built all these years are now at risk.
“Now, we have a semblance of a regular day. I wake up at eight in the morning to bring the dogs out to do their business, and afterwards I’d tend to our garden (which we started when quarantine happened). I’d get myself breakfast, and head back to our room and sleep till ten. By ten we’d start the day with greetings by the dogs. We would turn off the AC and head downstairs where one of us would prepare lunch while the other gets updated with the news, family, and friends. Over lunch Meg and I would continue her binge watching of Gilmore Girls, or my binge of Community. By early afternoon we would head outside to tend to our garden.
“We have a little crop patch growing garlic, oregano, and hopefully soon, calamansi and lemons. I’ve got rosemary, thyme, and lavender seeds germinating as well. We have a collection of Bunny Ears Cacti (opuntia microdasys), which was born out of just one plant Meg had brought home and we thought of propagating. There are a total of eight new cacti growing now. We give the dogs their afternoon walks, and finish up as the sun sets. From sundown onwards we attend to our dinner, and the rest of the night is for a mixture of things: movies, computer/console games, social media, reading, and/or straight to bed.
“I’m currently working on two projects during the quarantine: a series of dead leaves, and a project called ‘The Human Venting Machine’, a platform in which strangers vent anonymously to me, and I send those vents to some of my contacts, who in return, give advice anonymously. The ‘Dead Leaves’ series I’m working on has been a personal project I’ve been wanting to start with for quite some time now. If memory serves me right, the first photo I remember conceptualizing ever was a fresh leaf lying on a pile of dead leaves; this was back in high school, more than fifteen years ago.
Never have I felt so helpless in so many angles, therefore providing me with moments to think of how I, as an artist, can give myself more value and give my art a greater canvas.
“Right before the quarantine, my camera broke. All my lighting equipment is kept at my parent’s place in Alabang. So when the quarantine happened, I didn’t have any equipment to use for possible work, or even personal projects. But despite that, all upcoming shoots were of course postponed, and no new projects came in. With photography demanding a medium to large level of production, the need for physical presence, as well as the lack of need for any form of marketing during the pandemic, I found myself without any work opportunities. Photography is pretty much my main source of income—my fear was running out of capital.
“This pandemic/quarantine has become more than a case of survival or ‘break’ from work. Last April 28, my grandfather passed away (luckily not from Covid-19). I was very close to him—one may say I revolved my life around him—so being physically absent and experiencing his death has made these times very difficult to say the least. But this time has also become a time for reflection, a reinvention of myself and exploration of how I view and value my craft. Never have I felt so helpless in so many angles, therefore providing me with moments to think of how I, as an artist, can give myself more value and give my art a greater canvas. The lack of my equipment has made me become more conceptual and imaginative, and less dependent on my gear.
“Most looking forward to do after the quarantine? Eat Japanese food. Hopes: Work opportunities come back, maybe more work comes in, and I create better photographs on both professional and personal. Fears? There not being a need for my kind of work in the ‘new normal’. I am, however, most afraid that society will not at all adjust to the trauma this pandemic is laying out.” —Artu Nepomuceno as told to Jed Gregorio
Foremost a fashion photographer, Artu Nepomuceno has slowly cemented himself in the industry by way of shooting numerous fashion editorials and magazine covers for Esquire Philippines, Rogue, L’Officiel Manila, Scout magazine, and several others. His transition to advertising came on the heels of the print industry’s decline—he’s since shot for clients such as Rustan’s, Bo’s Coffee, Charriol, Harlan & Holden, but it’s his work with New York-based non-profit organization Waves for Water that has kept his craft of photography relevant. Traveling as far as Mongolia, Honduras, to Nepal and India, as well as countless provinces around the Philippines, it’s in shooting accidental portraits and glimpses of locals’ daily lives that Artu is able to take part in building a narrative for the humanitarian mission of W4W.