The Museum of Photography's "Isolation Dialogues" into a Book and an Exhibition User's  Fotomuuseum project in the category Print

The project of Isolation Dialogues at the Museum of Photography was born in spring 2020, out of the strangeness of the state of emergency, to which some adapted more easily, some with more difficulty. Most people working in the photography area had lost their job or outlet, many had no motivation to take pictures at all. In order to encourage the visual people to grab their camera again, we at the Museum of Photography proposed the idea of picture dialogues, where photo artists would capture their emotions and how they felt about being in isolation. Sending the photographers the invitations to participate in the project went smoothly, they were delighted with the idea and seized it immediately. It took about a week to get from the idea to its implementation, that is, to the launch of the first photo conversations between the artists that took place at the end of March.

During the virtual project, 130 Estonian photographers from around the country and from elsewhere in the world were communicating in pictures on the Isolation Dialogues website of the Museum of Photography. It became the largest joint project of Estonian photographers to date. No words could be used; all conversation between partners had to be photo-based. Until the end of the state of emergency on May 18, the Isolation Dialogues website was like a living organism in constant change, with a lively audience returning time and time again to watch the developing picture conversations in progress. All in all, photographers from as much as 45 countries participated in the project, and the website got more than 30,000 visits during the quarantine period.

It was very nice to get feedback from the participating photographers. They were inspired by the spirit of the process, the way a partner's photo response stirred their thoughts, the way their creative passion sparked. Their photo responses were carefully thought through. Sometimes they took several days to make a photo, awaiting the right weather, or the right mood. There were no wrong answers. There was no contest here, but a search for synergies between the partners, and it is beautiful to see it in these dialogues even when looking at them afterwards.

Cloe Jancis

The process differed significantly from taking mandatory pictures in a work situation. Thinking was the most important keyword here, and it is one that often tends to be forgotten in digital photography. And, of course, a sense of how to understand the visual thought of a familiar photographer, or even a stranger, and to interpret it for oneself. A number of pairs who dialogued with each other have never met before, but this led to unexpected results, opening up the inner world, experiences, and worldviews of two people who were completely unknown to each other.

As the project has captured a unique period in Estonian history, the Museum of Photography has taken it onto itself to preserve it in a book and also as an exhibition in the building of St. John's Hospital in the middle of the Tallinn. The building of St. John's Hospital is one of the oldest buildings in the capital – a medieval leprosarium where lepers were treated. So there is also a symbolic link between history and today, as people have had to live in fear of a plague in both times.

The family of the Museum of Photography together with its fellow photographers would be glad beyond words if the Isolation Dialogues could become both a book and an exhibition with the help of kind backers. We need the support for printing costs and for getting the dialogues into exhibition format, and also for preparing the rooms of St. John's Hospital for this. A big thanks and a warm socially distant hug to everyone!


Joosep Kivimäe