Online video chat is surely the single most defining feature of many people's lives in quarantine, serving to connect colleagues, friends and family in a time when in-person interaction is next to impossible.
The low-fi nature of video conferencing is part of its charm. It's fun to see everyone from John Krasinski to your co-workers reduced to the limitations of the technology at hand. But while video chat tends to render everyday life as ordinary in the extreme, the times, of course, are anything but. And so, in capturing this extraordinary moment, it can be useful to bring some craft to it—to elevate the experience as a way of honoring it.
Apple and Dove are two brands that have done this is recent weeks, capturing the beautiful within the mundane. And now, TBWA\Belgium and its telecom client Telenet have crafted their own take on it—enlisting a professional photographer to take portraits of quarantined families in Brussels, as seen over a webcam connection.
Jef Boes used FaceTime and Skype to connect with six groups of people in Brussels, selected by the agency to represent Belgium in lockdown. Boes art directed the scenes, helping his subjects find a place to shoot—and then taking their portraits on his computer screen, after also art directing the backgrounds in his own Ghent, Belgium, home. The photos were then used in Telenet featuring the line, "The beauty of staying in touch."
See the portraits below. They include comedian and comic book artist Fred Jannin; Nathalie and Jean-Louis Hennart, owners of the iconic jazz café L'Archiduc; as well as other residents, each with their own story.
In a nice touch, the portrait of the Hennarts (the first one below) is being displayed on a giant poster right in front of their closed bar on Rue Dansaert.
"Together with my subjects, we sought the right spot in the house, with the right amount of daylight in the right angle," Boes says. "We took the photos mostly in the morning or at sundown. As a photographer, I also learned to look for lines to subtly guide the eye to the subject. The rest is a matter of giving clear directions to get the person in the right spot. I gave them the freedom to be themselves. Everything happened very spontaneous from the first portrait on."
The portraits are beautifully done—and, Boes hopes, might even be therapeutic for some.
"I think this peculiar situation is a unique moment in our lifetime," he says. "And curiously, I felt a lot of solidarity among my subjects while working with them—something you don't specially notice in normal circumstances. I wanted to capture that emotion, in the hope that it can make a difference to people who feel lost. It would make me happy if they feel less isolated."
Below, see a video of Boes in action.
An online portion of the campaign allowed dozens of locked-up inhabitants to get their own webcam portrait taken. The campaign also includes radio, mini-documentaries and making-of videos—as well as a site offering tips for getting through this period of isolation.
Telenet Brussels by Webcam
Client: Maartje Berben
Agency: TBWA Belgium
Creative Director: Jeremie Goldwasser
Creative team: Kenn Van Lijsebeth, Greg Van Buggenhout
Copy FR: Gil Gaunieux
Art director FR: Thibaut Castaing
Account team: Nicolas De Bauw, Max Fauconnier, Ellen Van Praet
Strategy: Günther Van Lany
Art buyer: Elly Laureys
Photographer: Jef Boes
Production company: Initials LA
Post production: MAKE – Katrien Van Den Brande
Montage: Xavier Pouleur
Radio Production: MAKE - Lauranne Van Der Heyden
Sound: Jan Pollet
Media Agency: PHD – Ofelia Faes, Indra Lenaerts