Photoiso: Australian creatives share their lives in lockdown

Time and time again, we've seen that our quarantine conditions have borne amazing moments of creativity.

Director and producer Jennifer Embelton saw isolation as an opportunity. An opportunity to capture unique experiences as we all live through this time together.

She passed a disposable cameras around her creative community; writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and others from the arts industry, which has arguably been hit hardest by the pandemic. These creatives used the camera to document their time in isolation through a self portrait and a still life that brings them meaning.

This personal photo diary called Photoiso shows that even in the most challenging conditions, creativity still blooms.


Maz Devita

Musician, Waax

“These photos were taken when I returned to Brisbane after being in lockdown with my parents on the Gold Coast. I have been spending a lot of time in this room trying to write and also randomly listening to spiritual audiobooks for some reason. Having more time in my head has really forced me to look inward and learn about shit I wouldn’t usually explore.” 


Michelle Law


“The first several weeks of self-iso were really rough; my housemate left to be with her family before the borders closed, so it was just me and my cat, Bean. He kept me sane but I could also tell he was confused as to why I was around so much. These photos are a form of documentation of that period for me, and a reminder that there’s a stark difference between aloneness and loneliness.” 


Jo Agius

Musician, Rinse

"I usually spend a lot of time with my family down the coast so it was quite difficult to suddenly not be able to see them for months while isolating. I was lucky enough though to gain a new family member for a couple of months by fostering a staffy boxer cross named Naomi from the RSPCA. I started walking twice a day with her which provided me with some much needed break time from my couch and my brain."


Harriette Pilbeam 

Musician, Hatchie

“It might sound simple, but caring for my plants really helped maintain my sense of purpose during lockdown earlier this year. I usually don’t do well with keeping plants in good condition long term because I’m away for up to 6 months of the year, but with travel cancelled and not much work to do from home, I had an abundance of time to inspect and care for each plant’s individual needs. I think caring for a delicate living thing gave me a sense of achievement and also helped calm me and my space.” 


Tim Nelson

Musician, Cub Sport

“I really loved isolation - I feel a bit weird or guilty saying that ‘cause I know how hard it’s been for so many people but I think the forced break and cancelled tours kind of saved me from burning out. This time allowed me to ground myself and nourish my roots. And the best bit is I’ve been able to spend every day with our woollen angels, Missy and Evie.” 


Mitch Fresta 


“It’s sad to think that when we look back in a few years at the effect COVID had on the world, we probably wont remember anything tangible; we’ll just remember a bunch of assholes fighting over toilet paper and the terrifying amount of people that died thanks to the selfish actions of one, grossly unqualified person.”


Rae Hatch

Musician, CNTEVN 

“During isolation I kept feeling the pressure to optimise my time and fall down the capitalist trap of commodifying every waking second. But I grew vegetables, built a chicken coop, started learning how to play guitar and rollerblade, began a regular yoga practice, wrote music, shot photographs, practiced drawing, organised an online art show, designed a cassette tape and made my first key lime pie. I found that moments with my pets are when I could finally stop and breathe.”


Grace Pashley 

Station Manager, 4ZZZ Radio 


“2020 has been about home for me. I’ve been able to retreat to this house and invite others in when they needed respite. It’s an extremely privileged position to be in. My partner and I living together again after doing 15 months long distance. I keep thinking about how much worse this year would’ve been without him here. I’ve been so thankful that I have this house, with someone I love and our dog who I am equally obsessed with. There was lots of stillness that followed the initial COVID chaos with I really enjoyed. I did embroidery to get offline. It didn’t work in the long run, I’m still way too online. But it was nice for a moment.” 


John Turnbull

Audio Technician 

“It feels horrible to write, much less think, but for me, the pandemic has highlighted just how lucky I am. I went to work every day. I can afford to order in and my internet never stopped working. It didn't seem fair that I was actually *saving* money while people were suffering and dying, horrifically, around the globe. But I still don't really know what to do with this abundance of privilege. This sheer dumb luck that I live where I live and do what I do. My heart breaks for the seemingly endless list of people who have been ruined by Covid-19. Is being conscious of my good fortune enough? That's doubtful. But here I am, taking photos of empty Slurpee cups, and looking forward to heading into the city for dinner tonight.” 


Monica Sottile 

Musician, Sweater Curse 

“I think that the isolation period was the first time I ever spent properly alone. I didn’t have any work, didn’t have any social commitments and felt utterly overwhelmed by the thought of exisiting and interacting with the outside world. I had a very rapid shift between understanding things through first-person experience to relenting to the chaos and accepting everyone and everything that may happen in my small life. Anyway, at the risk of sounding crazy, I had a lovely and grounding time making a routine and spending a lot of time with my little silly cat Lucy."


Seja Vogel 

Musician, Sekiden & Regurgitator 

“The first few weeks of quarantine I suddenly felt ‘off the hook’ from so many things I had overcommitted to. Overcommitment is habitual for me so I felt relieved. I enjoyed the quiet and began doing projects just for fun. I started speaking to my dog like she was a person. I wrote songs, played with synths and drum machines and made little felt instruments. But as the weeks went on I started feeling more and more unmotivated and realised I might thrive by being ‘on the hook’.” 


Ruby MacGregor 


“Lockdown for me was really about learning to appreciate the tranquility of solitude. I realised I am happiest when I give myself permission to be, despite external pressures to creatively indulge or better utilise my time. I found myself unemployed but in the incredibly privileged position of living in my family home with my cat and with lots of time to release, and let go. I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who love and support me. Also thankful for all my TV streaming services, and Yoga with Adriene.” 


Annie MacDonald 


“I feel extremely lucky that isolation not only brought me safety, but also clarity. Clarity in whats important and what makes me happy. I walked a lot up to the Red Hill church for fresh air and a sense of freedom. I spent time working on my 80s wagon, learning how to remove and repair rust, which also taught me not to throw things away and appreciate craftsmanship. Most importantly, I started drawing again, which in turn convinced me to return to study. Oddly, I feel the spirit of an old man and I love the wholesomeness it brings.” 


Grace Julia 


“Isolation, for me, was - for the most part - a time of opportunity. I was able to stop and reevaluate the work I do and channel my creative energy into work with more personal meaning. I live alone, so during the initial stages of lockdown, I took self portraits. It can be confronting seeing yourself as you are, but also empowering. I realised I’m just as at peace on my balcony as I am anywhere else, and I’d rather have the company of my camera than a lover. These photographs capture the most important tools I had to get through that time: my Sony, my MacBook and myself.”