Even as folks in Ottawa have experienced a relatively open summer, the memories of public health-related lockdowns are fresh in many minds.
Joshua Renaud is one such person. Here, he reflects on how it felt to be stuck in the middle of lockdown. Going outside for walks was one of the few sanctioned reasons for leaving home, and taking photos gave Renaud a reason to take that liberty.
All of the photos were taken on Joshua Renaud’s phone. “If even a few people got inspired to take more photos using their phones that would make me so happy,” says Joshua in an email.
Words and photos by Joshua Renaud.
I rarely have people in my images. My frames are often filled with lonely landscapes, quiet spaces, houses, and I do appreciate a good tree. I love peeping into deserted fields and feel joy when I stumble upon elegantly dying farmland plants. I’m most calm when surrounded by gusts of air and dancing branches.
You could say I was (almost) well-suited for what came next.
The deafening silence of our new pandemic world really struck me. Expectations were shattered. Time stopped. Everyone halted, paused, caught their breath, regained it, and then collectively let it out in the longest public sigh in recent memory. There we all sat, waiting in our houses, our rooms, our kitchens, staring out our windows into a world that no longer welcomed us.
We all spent a lot of time alone that year.
But after the initial shock had worn off, life just began again. It wasn’t normal. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t easy. But it sunk in that it wasn’t going to change. People found ways of coping. Adventuring from my home became my way to stay sane.
Small neighbourhood walks became longer and further excursions. At some point, I realized I should try and remember all of this isolated time. I began desperately wanting to tell someone, anyone, in the future, that we sat here, we looked out into the world, we felt conscious, we felt time.
So I walked and took photos to document our newly quieted city.
Every day I looked and saw houses, lawns, parks, streets, trees, plants, dogs, dog owners, couches, mailboxes, pots and pans, carpets, and on and on. But seeing it through a camera let me catch small day-to-day differences.
Maybe today the sun was lower and that meant winter was fast approaching. Maybe that morning someone was sitting on the one park bench that’s always empty. Or perhaps the tennis courts were deserted, and the playground was full of kids, or maybe reversed. Today was cold and yesterday was warm. Last week’s fields were still lined with sunflowers and wild grass. Today, they’ve been tilled away into the ground for the changing season.
You decide to walk down this road instead of that one. You see two dogs instead of one and the church looks inviting rather than imposing. These may be small details, but they were how I marked time passing. I threw myself into the minutiae of life and they reflected back who I was becoming.
But now the world seems to be opening rather than closing. Before life moves on and I forget all of my time in lockdown, I wanted to honour that strange period where we could stop, breathe, and reflect.
So these images are about the small things. They’re also an homage to discovery, solitude, and (trying) to redefine yourself in a world mourning the loss of normalcy, whatever normal was in the first place.
And walking. Lots and lots and lots of walking.
Follow Joshua on Instagram at @joshrenaudphoto.