Veronica Ettedgui: An Artist Evolves in COVID-19’s Absence of Everyday Routine
An illustrator with a painter’s passion for composition, a photographer’s eye for the right chosen moment, and a comic book artist’s obsession with color, design studio owner Veronica Ettedgui D. spoke with us about how the pandemic’s compulsory lifestyle changes taught her that passivity need not lead to entropy.
09 FOCUS © Veronica Ettedgui
In putting together LOVE: A Typography Challenge [before the COVID-19 era], you said, “One of the great things I’ve learned from this project is to realize that the smaller things can bring happiness to your day.” During the pandemic, what have you embraced or felt the absence of?
05 LOVE_Roraima_2 © Veronica Ettedgui
If this pandemic has taught us anything is that nothing should be taken for granted: No more drinks with friends, no more walking around the city, no more going to the workplace or traveling, no more hugs, no more breathing without a mask… and because of that, LOVE, its concept, has strengthened after COVID-19. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a naive state of mind. I live in Caracas, Venezuela, I got the virus, lost my father and had major surgery, all in 2020.
But also, I got extra time. I had time to do what I had procrastinated so many times because other things were more urgent. I spent time at home, with my family and dogs, I studied, trained from home, connected with old friends, cooked, took on photography with discipline. I did miss people and routines, biking, hiking, the outdoors, but also learned new ways. I discovered life in, around and from home. I really saw the sunsets, sunrises, birds, the architecture around, snooped on my neighbors (there are weird people out there, hahaha). Life is easier with gratitude, and gratitude brings joy.
01 LOVE_Chinatown_3 © Veronica Ettedgui
Did the conscious, mental clarity you gained impact the way you frame/present objects in your work?
Up until 2020 my artwork was heavily influenced by travel, but with the shutdown all changed: Shorter workdays, no commuting, no trips, so my pace was heavily impacted. This disruption helped me become more aware of my surroundings.
As a graphic designer I’m trained to pay attention to detail, but as a photographer senses tend to heighten even more. Staying home forced me to be patient. I became an obsessed observer. Looking out my window, I started studying the subtle changes in light, color, shades, shapes, silhouettes, as the seasons went by. I became aware of an impressive variety of birds that benefited from minimal human activity, the quietness, the architecture around me, and every blue hour. I also paid more attention to my indoor life. I think it is very powerful to recognize that every human on Earth is suffering the exact same issues of COVID-19, so I started looking for themes that we all share as well as the singularities of my personal experience. How can I be a photographer trapped at home, doing exactly what everybody else is doing, but presenting it in a unique way? Reinvention. That is what I’m working on.
02 LOVE_KITSCH © Veronica Ettedgui
Of your 2020 street photography exhibition, Focus: you're not alone, you said, “Trying to blend in a public place doesn't guarantee your anonymity.” Are there lines you, as a person will not cross, when documenting others?
Absolutely. When I started this project, I was in Paris and it was all about shooting random street kisses for the fun of it. Then I got serious and tried asking for permission before shooting, but the mood of the moment was lost, obviously. So I decided to study what the law allowed me to do, and it surprised me the amount of variation from one country, even city, to the next. Then that became the theme. Is it fair game if the kissing is in a public space? Everybody knows we are always surrounded by cameras, right? Surveillance capitalism is a real thing, there is a GPS in everybody’s pocket, there’s facial recognition, so, what does privacy mean in our world?
And of course I have a code: I do not shoot children without parent’s consent, if persons are recognizable I ask for consent, if there are tears involved I do not intrude, if the pose allow the subjects to remain anonymous I do not ask for permission. And I do not profit from these pictures—they are all part of an editorial art project.