New York Photographer

Working From Home in a Home Being Renovated During the Covid-19 Quarantine – 1814 Residency Part I

Greetings from the lovely northeastern United States!  Flowers are blooming (I assume), the days are getting warmer (also an assumption) and the concept of time has lost all meaning (week…

Also, everyone is now essentially a newscaster when planning wardrobes for daily Zoom meetings (you’re a professional, so please look like you’re trying from the waist up, but pants are strictly optional).

Like many of you, I’m working from home right now.  Unlike many of you (I hope), my home is currently a construction zone.

My girlfriend and I recently bought a house, moving in mid-February 2020. This was, of course, only a few weeks before Covid-19 really started up here in earnest. It’s a fixer upper, which was what we wanted. The plan was to do as much as we could ourselves, and space out the work over time. When we bought it, it had ugly brown carpet and popcorn-covered wallpaper on the ceilings and walls. Our kitchen faucet was held together with duct tape (still is). Outside of our bedroom, we own little furniture, and for the first few weeks we used a dehydrator as an island in the kitchen. The living room has one chair and a coffee table made up of plastic bins and a storm window.  A camping sleeping pad is serving as a couch. We can hear our neighbors yell through a shared wall.

We’re largely working on it during the weekends.  If you follow me on Instagram (@mattbender), I regularly post photos to my story.  Most of the carpet is up to reveal the hardwood, some of the popcorn has come down. Progress!

While we’re both very excited for the process and the possibilities that it holds, I certainly did not think I’d be doing the majority of my work here (and be spending 95% of my total time here) during this period. I maintain a fine arts practice in addition to my commercial photography studio. While my commercial studio is definitely getting it’s fair share of attention right now, I’ve also decided to devote real time to my artwork as well.

I’m referring to this time as the 1814 Residency (our street address).  The environment is not the most comfortable, and I’m sure that will inform what ends up coming out of this; we shall see!  Some of this involves revisiting and sitting with prior work. Some involves starting new alternative process projects that I have wanted to do for a very long time. And some, like this photo, involve working with certain lighting techniques that I haven’t worked with in a while. I used light painting here, which is something I have used quite a bit in the past.

Stay tuned for more work from the residency!  And if you’re interested in watching two people learn-by-doing through a renovation of a small South Philadelphia row home (mixed in with real work, iPhone shots, and the occasional #windowcat), please follow me on Instagram!