At a Distance: A Stripped-Down Look at Social Distancing

photos: Aja Jacques. 

While the pandemic and the lockdown have been pretty devastating for artists and creative professionals economically, they certainly have not been lacking in being an inspiration. In the last weeks, we received quite wonderful submissions from photographers and artists all dealing with the different aspects of the pandemic and how they influence our life, among them the Stay At Home series, the corona comics, and a curious techno song. The latest project we want to introduce you to today is dealing specifically with one of the measures to contain the spread of the virus: social distancing.

Aja Jacques is one of the artists from our Uncensored Berlin exhibition that we hosted back in 2018 and that dealt with censorship of artists through social media platforms. Aja was not only one of our muses acting as a model for several of our photographers, but she also exhibited her own photos. Her new project “At A Distance” is a series of analog nude self-portraits she took with several fellow Berliners in prominent public places – at a safe distance of two meters. We talked with her about the series and about how the quarantine has been for her so far.



How have you experienced the last weeks of the quarantine?

Quarantine has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. I have had periods of deep depression, as well as periods of deep gratitude, peace, and inspiration. But throughout all of it, focusing on creating art has been central to my experience.

Did your creativity and inspiration change a lot at this time?

My creativity has definitely increased. I’ve had less work to do and fewer events to attend, and therefore more time to get inspired and focus on personal creative projects! As soon as the social distancing regulations were put in place, my first thoughts were “How can I create art with others within these new regulations? How can I capture what I am going through, and what we all are going through?” and that’s how the idea for this project started.

How did you pick the portrait partners for your series?

I put out a call in my private social media circles. Out of the people who were interested in participating, I did my best to pick a diverse group. Most participants were people that I already knew, but a few of them I met for the first time for this project.



How do you feel about desires and sexuality in times of social distancing?

Well, one thing I want to note is that this project, for me at least, is not about desire and sexuality. Nudity is not inherently sexual (although we are often taught that it is). I chose to shoot these photos nude because I wanted the focus to be on the humanity and timeless purity of my subjects and me. If we were wearing clothes there would have been an additional focus on style and fashion, which I wanted to avoid.

But to answer your question – desire and sexuality have definitely been an interesting thing to navigate during this time, as a single person. Forced celibacy has been a pretty unpleasant part of quarantine for me, though it’s not as bad as the lack of even platonic human touch! I have had more time to be introspective about my desires and wants for relationships, and I’m looking forward to bringing that clarity into relationships in the future. In general, I am very curious to see the ways in which our habits around dating and sex will shift in society overall after this is all over!



Follow Aja on Instagram as a photographer @aja.jacques and model @aja.jane.

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<a href="" target="_self">Frank</a>



Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of iHeartBerlin. He takes photos, makes videos, and writes texts mostly about what's going on in Berlin. His vision and interests have shaped iHeartBerlin since its conception back in 2007 - and he hopes to continue bringing you the best of Berlin for many years to come.