From about 2 meters

Author: Inna Mkhitaryan

Edition: Isolation

I live in a small, isolated neighborhood that, unlike other districts in Yerevan, is sparsely populated.  There are only a few low buildings, surrounded by a lot of green space. 

The district was built during the Soviet era for the employees of the Institute of Physics, which is nearby. In my neighborhood, people have adopted customs that are special  for small settlements: Children always play in the yards, people walk their dogs, everyone knows everyone and everyone greets everyone.

I learned about the declaration of a state of emergency due to the spread of COVID-19 on March 16 from Facebook. I don't follow the news every day! The TV has not been switched on in our house for years. 

In the days and weeks that follow, I get contradictory information about the infection from social networks: I take the long-purchased masks off the shelf, and then I put them back when cleaning the house. 

I look out from the window more often so that I can access the situation based on my neighbors' behavior. The cars are parked in the yard, the children are not playing; they are all at home. 

The activity outside has slowed down and moved to houses. Families are at home 24 hours a day. You can smell a mixture of aromas from all the delicious food. 

Children do not go to school, adults do not go to work, personal and business life’ boundaries seem blurred. Family members try to adapt to the new type of life together, sharing rooms, equipment and working tables. 

Before finishing his breakfast, my husband's business phone is already ringing, he drinks his last sip of coffee and walks to the other side of the table. Half of our dining table serves as a desk. 

My 6-year-old son calmly  puts on his helmet and approaches the bicycle in the hallway. I explain that he can't go out, I try not to be so sharp so that my new fears don't add to his fears. No matter, he doesn't understand, he takes the bike out. I quickly put the 3-month-old baby in a sling and hurry to protect him, telling him not to touch his face with his hands, don't interact with people. I'm constantly accelerating my steps, but I can't reach the bike. From a distance, I see how he passes a man who stands very close, then he stands and greets his friend, then other children approach him on bicycles. 

I can feel myself getting more and more tense and I press the face of my sleeping baby to my chest. As I walk down the narrow sidewalk, I notice how two women in front of me, one of whom is pregnant, change direction. When I enter the house, I wash my son's hands with warm water and turn off the tap,  pause for a moment, turn it on again and rub  his hands for a long time.  

I try to keep the children silent during my husband’s video calls although suddenly, during a conversation with a Russian colleague, the voice of his baby, coming through the internet, interrupts the conversation. 

I take a deep breath and feel that I am a part of the same reality. Lunch time has passed, my husband is still talking, there is no hope that he will be able to go for bread. I hug my baby and go to the nearest small shop. When I enter, I turn the child's face towards me and cover it with a scarf. The old saleswoman approaches me with a mask that has already changed color and scolds me for bringing my child with me. A tension already a bit on edge, I suggest that she serves me more quickly instead of scolding me. She folds the lavash slowly and puts it in the bag. I already feel bad about what I said and am glad the woman didn't listen to what I said, her hearing is not good.

Days and weeks in my neighborhood, without the chance to leave, have changed my attitude to my small district and my neighbors. As I watch them, and explore the part of the city I can see, I find myself visualizing a photo project of our new reality, a world limited by countless new restrictions. 

I want to show the transformation taking place in people's lives, how suddenly people have become isolated at home, reducing interaction and moving daily life from the hustle of outside to the restricted space of their homes. I talk to my neighbors briefly, explaining my idea briefly. No one refuses. Maybe the distance between us is why they don't even ask what the project is, they are satisfied with the guarantees I give: they will be photographed very quickly, on the doorstep of the house and the safe distance will be kept. 

In the end, these restrictions have suited the project. I grab my 23mm fixed lens and start to work. I knock on the door, jump twice to measure about two meters from their threshold, exchange a few words, and quickly take a photo. 

This concept is rooted in the idea of possibilities or impossibility. The concept is against the most basic principle for photographers, which was formulated by the American photographer Robert Capa. "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough."I can’t be close enough during this project and I can’t spend as much time with my subjects as I usually do. Kapa’s abstract expression about being quite close has become measurable in quarantine days, and I measure it by feet: one, two. 

Me, my husband Tigran Varzhapetyan, 41, my son Mushegh,6, and daughter, Nuri, 5 months.
Hayk Voskanyan, 29, and Varvara Musaelyan, 30, with their children Aurora, 4, and Aramazd, 2.
Syuzanna Abrahamyan, 60, and her granddaughters, Anna-Maria, 5, and Elina 3, take food to the dogs living in the yard near the apartment.
Liana Hovhannisyan, 36, Gevorg Sukiasyan, 48, with their daughter Gayane, 10.
Lusine Hayrapetyan, 43, with her sons David, 7, and Robert, 6.
Arevik Tunyan, 35, with her sons Areg, 10, Artyom, 5, and the dog Noy.
Rozik Hovhannisyan, 84, with her daughter Gohar, 60, and grandchildren Nellie, 11, Ghukas, 10, and Rosie, 8.
Lusine Grigoryan, 35, and Vigen Shirvanyan, 41 with their children Tatev, 8, and David, 5.
Varuzhan Danielyan, 73, and Elena Manvelyan, 73, with their grandson Gabriel, 9.
Julieta Beglaryan, 79.
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