Brooke Holm – Life in Lockdown 

It’s known as the city that never sleeps, but for months, New York sat almost idle waiting for a global pandemic to pass. Photographer Brooke Holm documented the empty streets on film, capturing blurred, out-of-focus shots reflective of the uncertainty in her suddenly unfamiliar home.

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Caroline Denervaud in her studio. Image: Eva Baales

Photographer Brooke Holm is best known for her aerial photographs documenting everything from African coastal deserts, to arctic landscapes in the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, and Australian salt lakes. Typically capturing these images from above via helicopter, Holm was brought back down to earth literally and figuratively this year as coronavirus took hold of New York City.

Holm was born in California, but lived in Australia from the age of nine, before moving to New York City four years ago. Back in March when the threat of coronavirus was truly realised, businesses in the U.S. collectively laid off millions of staff, and Holm was among those personally struck down with the virus. She describes the early days of restrictions as a feeling of purgatory. ‘Work became non-existent, human contact was off limits, the idea of a hug or affection was unthinkable,’ Holm says. ‘The energy of fear and anxiety was so strong, you could almost see it.’

As her commercial work ground to a halt, Holm began exploring personal projects inspired by this new reality. Armed with rolls of medium format film, she spent hours shooting the eerily empty streets of Manhattan featuring only the occasional person rushing home from the grocery store wearing a mask. The blurred and out-of-focus nature of these images depicts the deep uncertainty Holm felt at the time, and the future of humanity to come.

While these images may initially appear removed from Holm’s signature photography work, they bear the same inspiration as her portfolio to date: nature. ‘In my mind it ties back to the landscape work I do.’ she says. ‘It connects with the fact that nature is ever powerful – humans do not have the dominion and control they like to think they do.’

Holm describes her work as a constant conversation with the environment and questions relative to existence and place. ‘I like to look outside of our human selves and look at us from a distance,’ she explains. ‘We are so fascinating and yet not fascinating at all in the grand scheme.’ If there’s one experience that truly analyses this notion, it’s space exploration. One of Holm’s hobbies is searching through NASA’s space imagery archives and locating similarities to Earth. ‘It reminds me that everything is connected, and we are floating here on an orb, seemingly alone, together,’ she says. At a time when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s powerful to realise humans are only a miniscule part of a much wider and largely unknown universe.

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

It is Holm’s dream to one day photograph space for NASA, but for now, she has been documenting their facilities including the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Speaking in June, the photographer was making her way to the Very Large Array in New Mexico – the most versatile, widely-used radio telescope in the world.

With so much time spent on the road and working on personal projects, Holm has been critically considering how her work can contribute to the current climate. ‘In some ways, COVID-19 has me looking even deeper and darker,’ she says. ‘The feeling of impending doom when thinking of our social, environmental and health crisis becomes the perfect catalyst to pull you from the ‘business as usual’ dream world that everything is fine.’

It’s been a devastating year for millions of people, but the photographer is hopeful a silver lining can emerge from the virus, serving as a wake-up call to drastically change how humans consume and output resources. ‘It sounds (and feels) incredibly impossible, but what a time to be alive,’ Holm says. ‘To be a part of this time and space is important, and I am grateful to be here trying to work it out.’

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Life in Lockdown with Brooke Holm

Image: Brooke Holm

Two Four Nine by Cera Stribley © 2021 – hello@twofournine.com.au