Lisa Sorgini on photographing mothers and children in isolation

The Australian photographer’s intimate series, Behind Glass, captures the “lightness and darkness” of parenting during lockdown

When Australia introduced lockdown measures back in March, Lisa Sorgini – like many women – found herself at home non-stop with her two children, unable to work. Fascinated by the experience of feeling both alone – without the usual support structures such as school, friends and relatives – and being in constant company with her family, the photographic artist decided to embark on a series documenting the beauty and strangeness of parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was a project that was born of my own experience first and then a realisation that so many women were facing the same situation,” Sorgini tells CR. “From this work, I hoped to honour and explore the complex position of motherhood during this time: alone without social support structures, but also never alone as we care and nurture our children without the usual modes of reprieve.”

Sorgini – who is based in Bundjalung Country, in northern New South Wales – spent the next few weeks photographing people she knew, and women she was introduced to via friends and neighbours, through the windows of their home. The result is a tender and intimate series that documents women and their children adjusting to the rhythms of life in quarantine.

Images were shot digitally, with Sorgini visiting parents in the afternoon to make the most of natural light. The artist has long been fascinated with framing subjects in windows, and for this project, it provided a practical solution to the problem of maintaining social distancing, while also giving the images a painterly feel.

“Shooting through windows has appealed to me for a couple of reasons. The idea of inward viewing of a subject from outside provides quite an intimate and serene scene, and the window frame gives me the feeling of looking at a framed artwork in a museum or gallery,” she adds.

Shooting during a pandemic presented various challenges, with Sorgini unable to come into contact with her subjects or meet them to discuss the project. But she was able to carry out the project safely with some careful planning. “With each of the women we pre-organised via phone or email the date and time. On arrival I would call, and we would communicate that way or talk through their doors or windows to find the right window with the best light and position to sit for the portrait,” she explains.

While Sorgini initially planned to photograph 22 women, she has added several more along the way – and now hopes to turn the project into a printed photobook or an exhibition.

With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, and many children now going back to school, parents in Australia are beginning to resume some aspects of normal life. But with Behind Glass, Sorgini has captured a moment in time that saw routines, rituals and established social structures turned upside down. It’s a beautiful project – one that Sorgini hopes will shed light on an experience lived out behind closed doors, and capture the “tenderness, tedium, quietude, love, frustration and despair” of parents living in lockdown.