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Emily Soto isolation lockdown model portraits
IsoldPhotography Emily Soto

These intimate model portraits offer a snapshot of life in lockdown

Photographer Emily Soto’s new series captures what isolation looks like around the world

Over the course of the last few months it’s become clear that, when it comes to video calls, you either love them or you don’t. For all those willing to join the 9am office Zoom call with their camera switched on, or posting clips of themselves and their friends having a full-on Houseparty dance sessions to their Instagram stories, equally, there are countless others doing the absolute most to avoid communicating through FaceTime – no matter how much they miss their family and friends right now. 

What do you do, then, in the midst of a global pandemic, when your whole job revolves around being face-to-face with people but you fall firmly into the latter camp? It’s a question photographer Emily Soto had to ask herself a month into lockdown, when a model got in touch to ask her if she’d capture her remotely via video call. It turns out, Soto’s will to remain creative while in quarantine won out. “I’m primarily an analogue photographer and it felt like such a foreign process,” she explains. “I’m an introvert and I hate video calls, but I thought I’d give it a try because I was missing being creative.” 

Having left New York behind and settled back into life in the mountains of North Carolina with her family, the first model Soto captured was activist and filmmaker Isold Halldorudottir. “We worked together on a project for Universal Standard last year and had been wanting to work together again – but with her being in Iceland I hadn’t had the chance,” she says. Despite her initial reservations “it was amazing to reconnect and create images together remotely,” she adds.

Also featured in the series are models Yasmin Geurts (currently in Brooklyn) and Fitz (in Palm Springs), both of whom Soto has also previously worked with. Handing over much of the creative direction to her three subjects, the finished portraits, presented mostly in black and white, radiate a quiet sense of intimacy, despite having been captured through a screen (or rather, two screens). 

“I think they convey strength and raw beauty,” confirms Soto. “These models are at home, persevering through the many new challenges that come from the pandemic, yet they were able to be captured in their truest form while helping with so much of the production. This speaks to how naturally captivating, courageous, and professional these women are.”

An unexpected side effect was how embarking on the project positively impacted her mental health, sharing their stories of isolation, and catching up on what had been happening in each others’ lives. “What surprised me was how well they were doing,” Soto says. “Yasmin was waiting for her flatmate to go into labour and has since helped with the home birth of her baby girl while in quarantine, which is completely amazing!” 

It would seem she’s also conquered her stage fright when it comes to video calls: “I love that I can shoot anyone, anywhere in the world, and the freedom and intimacy of it just being the model and myself. So many times we get lost in large sets with a lot of voices – this was a great way to step back and just focus on the art.”

Take a look at the full series in the gallery above.