TV brings us comfort. TV gives us information. TV is relentless. The coronavirus lockdown has changed the way we absorb the glow of screens. Three photographers captured viewers at home and in public, relaxed and on edge, together and alone.
The New York-based photographer Ryan Lowry realized something when he began quarantining with his family in Highland, Ind.: “The TV in my parents’ house is always on.” One reason? Their dog, Nigel, enjoys the noise. “But your eyes can’t help but dart to the bright screen of moving images,” Lowry said. It’s sometimes tuned to an action movie or a home renovation show, “but more often than not, it’s the news pummeling whoever is in the TV’s vicinity,” he said. “It yells at my family and me — sometimes we yell back.”
Hannah La Follette Ryan
Hannah La Follette Ryan has a specialty: photographing hands. On her Instagram feed @subwayhands, she captures those of New York transit riders. For this project, she observed friends at home watching “comfort” shows and movies, including “The Great British Baking Show,” “Desus & Mero,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “We Are Who We Are” and “Gilmore Girls.”
“When watching TV, our bodies are typically inert and passive while our minds wander,” she said. “I’m always interested in how our hands hold emotion, and here I paid particular attention to the gestures and poses of the body comfortably at rest.” With screens replacing in-person interactions during quarantine, “TV can also intensify our loneliness,” she explained, “which I explored using screen light to visually isolate the hands.”
Sinna Nasseri has spent much of the year covering the United States in the lead-up to the presidential election. “These pictures were made before being escorted out of various electronics stores around Los Angeles,” he said of his photos of screens in the wild. “I talk to a lot of people, and many times I can tell what news channel they watch by specific phrases they use.” His favorite photo? “The mess we came home to one night after leaving a package within reach of Earl the puppy,” he said. “There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.”