IDLE HANDS: MARIA JOSE GOVEA

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Photographer Maria Jose Govea is the legend who shot and created the look of our Idle Hands and One Thing series during quarantine, directing subjects over FaceTime and Zoom for her stunning portraits of creativity within isolation. The Venezuelan native has worked with brands like Apple, Nike, and Red Bull, and taken portraits of Erykah Badu, Tierra Whack, Billie Eilish, The Chainsmokers, Skrillex, the Arcade Fire, Diplo, and more—and worked with Jay Z (you might know him as Beyonce’s +1). She currently lives in Echo Park, where we caught up with her about how she is using the constraints of quarantine to unlock creativity and connection through portraiture—and, you know, stay sane.

How has your quarantine been? How have you been staying sane?

Quarantine has been a blessing and a curse! Fun and beautiful and sad and scary at the same time. To be honest, I think we’re all going a little crazy at this point, but taking photos is what gives me a sense of normalcy and sanity. 

We love your portrait series, shot through phones and screens from a safe distance. How did you develop this technique? How did you shoot these portraits?

Thank you! At first I was just documenting my quarantine with my phone, and re-visiting older shoots. And then I started seeing a few photographers who were doing shoots over FaceTime and I was instantly inspired. Basically, I call people over FaceTime or Zoom and I take photos of  my phone screen or computer screen with my “real” camera. Some photographers take screenshots of the call, but using my actual camera works better for me

How do constraints inform your creative practice? (I.e. not being able to be in the same room as your subject, or having another person hold the phone so you can shoot your subject over FaceTime.)

It’s been pretty surreal to direct people through a screen. I think the fact that we’re all at our own homes adds a layer of comfort, even if the format is unconventional. I always talk to people for a bit before starting to shoot and we’re all going through something similar, so there is instant connection. Constraints always lead to resourceful problem solving, and it pushes your creativity. The look of the images is also very much impacted by the limitations, and I’m surprising myself with the results! 

What else have you been making, doing, or practicing in lockdown to stay sane?

I’ve been doing puzzles! Going on hikes and night walks with my boyfriend. Learning Italian on Duolingo. Watching shows and movies. Listening to podcasts. Facetiming friends. Most importantly, trying to limit the daily news intake. I think that’s the key to staying sane! 

Has your routine changed at all?

I’m eating more, thinking more, freaking out more. But hey, I get to shoot with no pants on so I can’t complain.

What is inspiring you right now? Are you working on anything else?

Knowing that millions and millions of us stayed at home watching Tiger King in sweat pants and t-shirts is weirdly poetic to me. To think about the whole world in comfy clothes and no makeup has been fascinating. But I’m excited to eventually get back out there. I’ve been doing a few shoots in person with a couple friends, keeping a safe distance. It’s felt better than ever to connect.

CONNECT WITH MARIA JOSE GOVEA

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photos / Maria Jose Govea

story / Anna Bulbrook

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