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MEET THE CREATIVES

Creating during COVID-19 times: Jacopo Marchio

Valentine del Giudice
July 3, 2020
July 3, 2020

Stuck in the Dominican Republic at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Jacopo shares his story through captivating photographs of his experience.

COVID-19 UK FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Are you getting all the help available to you?

As creative practitioners, we are aware it can be difficult to navigate between financial
options available depending on your status. Make sure you are getting all the financial help
available to you by using the table below.
We will keep on updating it with new resources to always provide the most up-to-date financial support info for you!

* If you have another employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

COVID-19 UK FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Are you getting all the help available to you?

As creative practitioners, we are aware it can be difficult to navigate between financial
options available depending on your status. Make sure you are getting all the financial help
available to you by using the table below.
We will keep on updating it with new resources to always provide the most up-to-date financial support info for you!

* If you have another employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

All images by Jacopo Marchio

About the project

During the COVID-19 lockdown, we got in touch with members of our creative community to find out how they were dealing with the crisis, and how they adapted their creative practices to the new realities. First, we spoke with ealy SSSHAKE member, Jacopo Marchio. A talented photographer, Jacopo fluidly moves through genres, breaking their rigid boundaries. Over the years, Jacopo has explored many different approaches to photography. His project Bunny Key is an autobiographical self-portrait series exploring social conformity and compliance, while his most recent works include editorial shoots in London, working with Kaltblut Magazine and French Fries Magazine, among others. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jacopo was working between the US and Europe. We decided to catch up with him to hear about his experience and understand how the crisis affected his photography practice. 

About the project

During the COVID-19 lockdown, we got in touch with members of our creative community to find out how they were dealing with the crisis, and how they adapted their creative practices to the new realities. First, we spoke with ealy SSSHAKE member, Jacopo Marchio. A talented photographer, Jacopo fluidly moves through genres, breaking their rigid boundaries. Over the years, Jacopo has explored many different approaches to photography. His project Bunny Key is an autobiographical self-portrait series exploring social conformity and compliance, while his most recent works include editorial shoots in London, working with Kaltblut Magazine and French Fries Magazine, among others. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jacopo was working between the US and Europe. We decided to catch up with him to hear about his experience and understand how the crisis affected his photography practice. 

The Creators

The Creative

Jacopo Marchio

Universal Credit (1)

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:
• you’re on a low income or out of work
• you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
• you’re under State Pension age
• you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
• you live in the UK

MORE INFO

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (3)

If you have employees, you can claim for 80% of their wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions, if you have put them on furlough because of coronavirus. If you have an other employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

MORE INFO



Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (3)

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either: have coronavirus, cannot work because they are self-isolating at home or are shielding in line with public health guidance.

MORE INFO

HMRC’s Time To Pay (5)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
• have lost trading pro ts due to coronavirus
• your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income

MORE INFO

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) & Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) (7)

Small Business Grant Fund Eligibility:
• Businesses with a property that on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) Scheme.
• Businesses which on 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief under the Rural Rate Relief
• Scheme are also eligible for this scheme.
Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Hospitality and Leisure Grand Fund Eligibility:
• Properties which on the 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates
• Expanded Retail Discount Scheme had that scheme been in force are eligible for the grant.
• Charities which would otherwise meet this criteria but whose bill for 11 March had been reduced to nil by a local discretionary award should still be considered to be eligible for the RHL grant.
• Recipients will receive one grant per eligible property

No need to do anything you’ll be contacted by HRMC if you’re eligible

MORE INFO

Council Tax Reduction (2)

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%. You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

MORE INFO

HRMC income support scheme (4)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year2020 to 2021
• have lost trading profits due to coronavirus

You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk based approach to compliance.

Your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income for either:
• the tax year 2018 to 2019
• the average of the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019

MORE INFO

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (6)

You’re eligible if:
• your business is based in the UK
• your business has an annual turnover of up to £45 million
• your business has a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic
• you can self-certify that your business has been adversely impacted by coronavirus

MORE INFO

Creative industry-specific Grants & Funds (8)

We've compiled a list of grants and prizes available to UK residents, which you can filter by creative industry, to make sure you're seeing grants that are relevant to your practice. We'll be doing our best to keep this list up-to-date with the latest grants and initiatives to support creatives around the UK. All grants listed are open for applications and are automatically removed after the deadline. 

If you are feeling anxious, wondering what the coronavirus crisis means for your practice, feel free to reach out to us at any time.

We’re not experts, but we’re happy to share our knowledge and to try to help you stay optimistic during these tough times. You can contact us from our website chat or on any social media.

MORE INFO

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (9)

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
• is based in the UK was established before 1 March 2020
• has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

MORE INFO

Universal Credit (1)

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:
• you’re on a low income or out of work
• you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
• you’re under State Pension age
• you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
• you live in the UK

MORE INFO

Council Tax Reduction (2)

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%. You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

MORE INFO

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (3)

If you have employees, you can claim for 80% of their wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions, if you have put them on furlough because of coronavirus. If you have an other employment paid through PAYE your employer may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

MORE INFO



Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (3)

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either: have coronavirus, cannot work because they are self-isolating at home or are shielding in line with public health guidance.

MORE INFO

HRMC income support scheme (4)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year2020 to 2021
• have lost trading profits due to coronavirus

You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk based approach to compliance.

Your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income for either:
• the tax year 2018 to 2019
• the average of the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019

MORE INFO

HMRC’s Time To Pay (5)

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
• have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
• traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
• are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
• intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
• have lost trading pro ts due to coronavirus
• your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income

MORE INFO

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (6)

You’re eligible if:
• your business is based in the UK
• your business has an annual turnover of up to £45 million
• your business has a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic
• you can self-certify that your business has been adversely impacted by coronavirus

MORE INFO

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) & Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) (7)

Small Business Grant Fund Eligibility:
• Businesses with a property that on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) Scheme.
• Businesses which on 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief under the Rural Rate Relief
• Scheme are also eligible for this scheme.
Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Hospitality and Leisure Grand Fund Eligibility:
• Properties which on the 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates
• Expanded Retail Discount Scheme had that scheme been in force are eligible for the grant.
• Charities which would otherwise meet this criteria but whose bill for 11 March had been reduced to nil by a local discretionary award should still be considered to be eligible for the RHL grant.
• Recipients will receive one grant per eligible property

No need to do anything you’ll be contacted by HRMC if you’re eligible

MORE INFO

Creative industry-specific Grants & Funds (8)

We've compiled a list of grants and prizes available to UK residents, which you can filter by creative industry, to make sure you're seeing grants that are relevant to your practice. We'll be doing our best to keep this list up-to-date with the latest grants and initiatives to support creatives around the UK. All grants listed are open for applications and are automatically removed after the deadline. 

If you are feeling anxious, wondering what the coronavirus crisis means for your practice, feel free to reach out to us at any time.

We’re not experts, but we’re happy to share our knowledge and to try to help you stay optimistic during these tough times. You can contact us from our website chat or on any social media.

MORE INFO

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) (9)

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
• is based in the UK was established before 1 March 2020
• has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

MORE INFO
Hi Jacopo! I'm really happy that you want to share your story with us. First of all, how are you? 

Hi Vale, pleasure. I could be better in this weird period, but you know... 

Just to put things back into context, you're now back in Bologna, your home town in Italy, but can you tell us where you were at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak?

I was in New York City when it happened. I was planning to go back home, but Italy was already locked down. I had the feeling that it would become worse, so I made some calls, but it seemed that it wouldn't be possible for me to go back to my country. After having two flights cancelled, and because I couldn't go back to the United States, as my visa was going to expire, I decided to seek shelter in the Dominican Republic (DR) for a while.

What was it like to arrive in the Dominican Republic at the very beginning of the pandemic? How was this situation over there?

There was little information about COVID-19 in DR and skepticism about this whole situation. I found out that there were political elections for the main cities when I arrived. So the situation probably wasn't clear, because the government didn't share the information properly before the election day. Citizens had a lot of questions about the situation, as they didn't really know what was going on, but no one was going to answer them. 

The first few days were okay. Without knowing anything about how my situation would turn out, I just started to express myself and took pictures. I didn't have my camera, because of some unfortunate events, but I decided to go out with my phone to capture this situation full of uncertainty. The unknown is always fascinating, at the end of the day. There were strange vibes in the air; you could read that very easily in the eyes of the people around. We didn't know what was going on within the country, and people were starting to realise that there was a real issue.



From your picture, there's a  still-life, that for me, says a lot. You can see that it's a personal space, a quiet space, but you can feel that it's not quiet outside. And that's why I really loved it. Where was it? 

It was my "hotel" room. It was a plain room. In some ways, it felt like being in prison, you know. I was stuck there and I still didn't know how I would get home. I was calling and sending emails everyday, but nothing. And at that time, I had a severe, unknown allergic reaction, so I went to the hospital with a motoconcho (a motorcycle-taxi), to cut through the traffic (and used the 50 pesos banknote you see on the chair to pay for it!). But there was not much to do, because the hospitals were starting to be filled with COVID-19 cases. I was saying to myself, don't let yourself down, you know. Don't let yourself down, because at the time, I had no idea was going to happen, you know? This picture expresses my mood in those circumstances very well.


It must have been a crazy time, and I think that's something we can really see in your pictures. When I look at them, I can feel the fear from the uncertainty of the situation. But I also feel a sense of not belonging, that the images are taken from the eye of an outsider.

After just a week, everything was different already. Every day was something new. And as we all did, I lived day by day, if not hour by hour. I saw this climax of chaos going on, from the first day I arrived. At first, as I said, people didn't know. But then, when other countries started to repatriate their citizens, and the Dominican Republic was left without tourists, was when some troubles started. In a country like DR, in which a huge part of revenue comes from tourism, if you don't have tourists, I'll let you imagine what that does. And it was that fear and uncertainty that I was seeing in the eyes of the people there. 


I was having coffee and talking to someone, trying to figure out what was going on with the Dominican government. When I took that picture, there was no clarity on the situation. At this time, I could see people transitioning, finding new ways to work, even kids. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, kids in DR usually got oysters from the sea to sell to tourists. So the transition was particularly interesting, because without tourists, there was no one left to eat the fresh seafood anymore. Their businesses changed to selling hand sanitizer and masks, instead. 

In this image, you can see a boy with a mask and bottle of alcohol, adapting to the new reality, selling a hand sanitizing service. I could see in his eyes a certain strength, of being able to adapt to anything, no matter what. Seeing that transition here was even more powerful, because he's just a kid.


So you found yourself in a very chaotic situation without any news from the Italian government. Did you know how you would be able to get back home? 

I was literally stuck. I was in the North of the island, in Puerto Plata, in contact with the embassy in Santo Domingo, trying to seek information on how to go back home. I tried to contact everyone I could think of, even the New York City embassy, just to find answers, but there were none. So the first two and a half weeks I was there, I didn't know anything, not even how or when I could go back to Italy.

The situation in the Dominican Republic got a little bit clearer after the elections. I still remember: it was a Sunday. Everything moved so fast after then. The day after, on Monday, they shared news out of the blue that there were more COVID-19 cases and deaths, and that there would be a mandatory curfew at 8PM. The curfew, there's a specific sound for that, you know, a sound that you usually hear only in movies... Everything moved so fast after the elections, and there were riots in some parts of DR, and a hate for tourists and foreigners started, because of stories that Europeans brought the virus to the Island.


In one of your pictures you can see what looks like a policeman. Who is he? 

He's not a member of the police, but he's a member of this private police, or the community police, as they call themselves. I found this hotel in the centre of Puerto Plata, with this interesting character. He was the owner of the hotel. Some people said he was a fanatic. Some people said that he was a hero, or some said even that he was a saint. He was a particular character. And basically, he created this private police that was living in his hotel, and they were always going around on patrols with guns. Things, you know, were getting a little bit tense, but I felt safe even through this period. For the people of the city, this private police was like an institution, more than the actual police. I took this picture from below to underline the way people in the community are seeing them. And also to show their patriotism, because that is the thing that drives them: the patriotism for their country and the care for their neighbours, for their cities, for the Dominican Republic and for Puerto Plata citizens.

Without your camera equipment, you shot these images on your phone. Do you think that was an important part of the process?

Yeah, definitely. Because it was something that was happening in a more easy way, let's say. The phone is something that is used daily, something that is more familiar. It is also something more immediate, more intuitive. During this period, where the situation was getting more tense and people were experiencing some violence, shooting with a phone was less intimidating, especially that I was exploring different Dominican favelas. 

I'm thinking about this very strong photograph of those two guys posing for you, where you can feel the energy, the roughness of the situation. Can you give me a bit more context about this picture?

I found myself walking in the barrio (DR favela) and I ended up on this little street, where there was a crack house, basically. The people in the house stopped me, so I started talking to them. The guy on the left, a guy from Norway, I met there. He was living in the barrio. And the other guy, on the right, is basically the head of the crack house. 

I can see that they really wanted to pose for you...

Actually that's one of my few pictures where people are really posing. They were high and wanted to take some pictures. The setting was great: I saw the Bible on the floor close to the needles, to drugs. Seeing this bible in a crack house on the floor, in the dirt, close to drugs, was a very strong image. 


Because you mostly work in fashion, I wanted to know if you've taken any learnings from your fashion photography practice and applied them to this project. And on the flip side, did you learn some things through this project that you're going to carry on to your fashion photography practice? 

Of course it's totally different, but I actually don't see that much of a difference, because it's all about the way that you deal with people, you know? Of course, reportage photography and its vibe are very different to fashion photography, but in both, there is an interaction with people. I like to think of myself as a friendly and engaging person, and in my opinion, these things are fundamental to do reportage photography, or fashion photography. It's always about the way that you interact with people, at the end of the day.


So when I saw this guy in the street, for example, I told him “you are beautiful, let me take a picture.” He was wearing this red tee shirt, smiling, and smoking against this terracotta wall. So I asked him if I could take his picture, but not in a posed way. I'm not that kind of photographer, even in fashion. I don't like poses; I like something more dynamic. I just like to go with the flow, you know, always trying to be respectful of the other human being. Of course with a camera, it's always different than with a phone, you know, because people get intimidated by a camera - especially me! That's why I'm the photographer.

Your images from DR really tell a story: they tell your story, but also the story of the Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic. So what are you going to do next with this project? 

Thank you. It came very naturally: I love people, and I love to connect with people. So I wanted to talk to them and learn their stories. I was doing reportage when I started photography, and then I stopped. Maybe because of time. You know, in London and in New York, there is no time. There's no time, and almost no need to document. But in the Dominican Republic, I found that part of myself again, because there was a need. So actually, although it wasn't easy, a part of me was happy to be stuck there without knowing what was going to happen to my situation. At first, I just took these pictures for myself. I had this strong drive to not let these moments fade, because it was such a strange and powerful period for everybody. And this is my story, my story during this worldwide crisis. I was talking with a friend of mine (she's a photo editor in Milan), to make a little zine with my images, and then to exhibit in Europe, and maybe Puerto Rico.

And would you like to take those pictures back to the Dominican Republic one day?

Yeah, definitely. I'm thinking about doing something in Puerto Plata, to show the vibe during the crisis, there, because Puerto Plata is not Santo Domingo. And most people know Santo Domingo, but Puerto Plata is more raw, more real. So, yes, it would be super interesting to take this project back to its origin in the future and see the reactions of people, relating to their experience seen through my pictures.

Hi Jacopo! I'm really happy that you want to share your story with us. First of all, how are you? 

Hi Vale, pleasure. I could be better in this weird period, but you know... 

Just to put things back into context, you're now back in Bologna, your home town in Italy, but can you tell us where you were at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak?

I was in New York City when it happened. I was planning to go back home, but Italy was already locked down. I had the feeling that it would become worse, so I made some calls, but it seemed that it wouldn't be possible for me to go back to my country. After having two flights cancelled, and because I couldn't go back to the United States, as my visa was going to expire, I decided to seek shelter in the Dominican Republic (DR) for a while.

What was it like to arrive in the Dominican Republic at the very beginning of the pandemic? How was this situation over there?

There was little information about COVID-19 in DR and skepticism about this whole situation. I found out that there were political elections for the main cities when I arrived. So the situation probably wasn't clear, because the government didn't share the information properly before the election day. Citizens had a lot of questions about the situation, as they didn't really know what was going on, but no one was going to answer them. 

The first few days were okay. Without knowing anything about how my situation would turn out, I just started to express myself and took pictures. I didn't have my camera, because of some unfortunate events, but I decided to go out with my phone to capture this situation full of uncertainty. The unknown is always fascinating, at the end of the day. There were strange vibes in the air; you could read that very easily in the eyes of the people around. We didn't know what was going on within the country, and people were starting to realise that there was a real issue.



From your picture, there's a  still-life, that for me, says a lot. You can see that it's a personal space, a quiet space, but you can feel that it's not quiet outside. And that's why I really loved it. Where was it? 

It was my "hotel" room. It was a plain room. In some ways, it felt like being in prison, you know. I was stuck there and I still didn't know how I would get home. I was calling and sending emails everyday, but nothing. And at that time, I had a severe, unknown allergic reaction, so I went to the hospital with a motoconcho (a motorcycle-taxi), to cut through the traffic (and used the 50 pesos banknote you see on the chair to pay for it!). But there was not much to do, because the hospitals were starting to be filled with COVID-19 cases. I was saying to myself, don't let yourself down, you know. Don't let yourself down, because at the time, I had no idea was going to happen, you know? This picture expresses my mood in those circumstances very well.


It must have been a crazy time, and I think that's something we can really see in your pictures. When I look at them, I can feel the fear from the uncertainty of the situation. But I also feel a sense of not belonging, that the images are taken from the eye of an outsider.

After just a week, everything was different already. Every day was something new. And as we all did, I lived day by day, if not hour by hour. I saw this climax of chaos going on, from the first day I arrived. At first, as I said, people didn't know. But then, when other countries started to repatriate their citizens, and the Dominican Republic was left without tourists, was when some troubles started. In a country like DR, in which a huge part of revenue comes from tourism, if you don't have tourists, I'll let you imagine what that does. And it was that fear and uncertainty that I was seeing in the eyes of the people there. 


I was having coffee and talking to someone, trying to figure out what was going on with the Dominican government. When I took that picture, there was no clarity on the situation. At this time, I could see people transitioning, finding new ways to work, even kids. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, kids in DR usually got oysters from the sea to sell to tourists. So the transition was particularly interesting, because without tourists, there was no one left to eat the fresh seafood anymore. Their businesses changed to selling hand sanitizer and masks, instead. 

In this image, you can see a boy with a mask and bottle of alcohol, adapting to the new reality, selling a hand sanitizing service. I could see in his eyes a certain strength, of being able to adapt to anything, no matter what. Seeing that transition here was even more powerful, because he's just a kid.


So you found yourself in a very chaotic situation without any news from the Italian government. Did you know how you would be able to get back home? 

I was literally stuck. I was in the North of the island, in Puerto Plata, in contact with the embassy in Santo Domingo, trying to seek information on how to go back home. I tried to contact everyone I could think of, even the New York City embassy, just to find answers, but there were none. So the first two and a half weeks I was there, I didn't know anything, not even how or when I could go back to Italy.

The situation in the Dominican Republic got a little bit clearer after the elections. I still remember: it was a Sunday. Everything moved so fast after then. The day after, on Monday, they shared news out of the blue that there were more COVID-19 cases and deaths, and that there would be a mandatory curfew at 8PM. The curfew, there's a specific sound for that, you know, a sound that you usually hear only in movies... Everything moved so fast after the elections, and there were riots in some parts of DR, and a hate for tourists and foreigners started, because of stories that Europeans brought the virus to the Island.


In one of your pictures you can see what looks like a policeman. Who is he? 

He's not a member of the police, but he's a member of this private police, or the community police, as they call themselves. I found this hotel in the centre of Puerto Plata, with this interesting character. He was the owner of the hotel. Some people said he was a fanatic. Some people said that he was a hero, or some said even that he was a saint. He was a particular character. And basically, he created this private police that was living in his hotel, and they were always going around on patrols with guns. Things, you know, were getting a little bit tense, but I felt safe even through this period. For the people of the city, this private police was like an institution, more than the actual police. I took this picture from below to underline the way people in the community are seeing them. And also to show their patriotism, because that is the thing that drives them: the patriotism for their country and the care for their neighbours, for their cities, for the Dominican Republic and for Puerto Plata citizens.

Without your camera equipment, you shot these images on your phone. Do you think that was an important part of the process?

Yeah, definitely. Because it was something that was happening in a more easy way, let's say. The phone is something that is used daily, something that is more familiar. It is also something more immediate, more intuitive. During this period, where the situation was getting more tense and people were experiencing some violence, shooting with a phone was less intimidating, especially that I was exploring different Dominican favelas. 

I'm thinking about this very strong photograph of those two guys posing for you, where you can feel the energy, the roughness of the situation. Can you give me a bit more context about this picture?

I found myself walking in the barrio (DR favela) and I ended up on this little street, where there was a crack house, basically. The people in the house stopped me, so I started talking to them. The guy on the left, a guy from Norway, I met there. He was living in the barrio. And the other guy, on the right, is basically the head of the crack house. 

I can see that they really wanted to pose for you...

Actually that's one of my few pictures where people are really posing. They were high and wanted to take some pictures. The setting was great: I saw the Bible on the floor close to the needles, to drugs. Seeing this bible in a crack house on the floor, in the dirt, close to drugs, was a very strong image. 


Because you mostly work in fashion, I wanted to know if you've taken any learnings from your fashion photography practice and applied them to this project. And on the flip side, did you learn some things through this project that you're going to carry on to your fashion photography practice? 

Of course it's totally different, but I actually don't see that much of a difference, because it's all about the way that you deal with people, you know? Of course, reportage photography and its vibe are very different to fashion photography, but in both, there is an interaction with people. I like to think of myself as a friendly and engaging person, and in my opinion, these things are fundamental to do reportage photography, or fashion photography. It's always about the way that you interact with people, at the end of the day.


So when I saw this guy in the street, for example, I told him “you are beautiful, let me take a picture.” He was wearing this red tee shirt, smiling, and smoking against this terracotta wall. So I asked him if I could take his picture, but not in a posed way. I'm not that kind of photographer, even in fashion. I don't like poses; I like something more dynamic. I just like to go with the flow, you know, always trying to be respectful of the other human being. Of course with a camera, it's always different than with a phone, you know, because people get intimidated by a camera - especially me! That's why I'm the photographer.

Your images from DR really tell a story: they tell your story, but also the story of the Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic. So what are you going to do next with this project? 

Thank you. It came very naturally: I love people, and I love to connect with people. So I wanted to talk to them and learn their stories. I was doing reportage when I started photography, and then I stopped. Maybe because of time. You know, in London and in New York, there is no time. There's no time, and almost no need to document. But in the Dominican Republic, I found that part of myself again, because there was a need. So actually, although it wasn't easy, a part of me was happy to be stuck there without knowing what was going to happen to my situation. At first, I just took these pictures for myself. I had this strong drive to not let these moments fade, because it was such a strange and powerful period for everybody. And this is my story, my story during this worldwide crisis. I was talking with a friend of mine (she's a photo editor in Milan), to make a little zine with my images, and then to exhibit in Europe, and maybe Puerto Rico.

And would you like to take those pictures back to the Dominican Republic one day?

Yeah, definitely. I'm thinking about doing something in Puerto Plata, to show the vibe during the crisis, there, because Puerto Plata is not Santo Domingo. And most people know Santo Domingo, but Puerto Plata is more raw, more real. So, yes, it would be super interesting to take this project back to its origin in the future and see the reactions of people, relating to their experience seen through my pictures.

Hi Jacopo! I'm really happy that you want to share your story with us. First of all, how are you? 

Hi Vale, pleasure. I could be better in this weird period, but you know... 

Just to put things back into context, you're now back in Bologna, your home town in Italy, but can you tell us where you were at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak?

I was in New York City when it happened. I was planning to go back home, but Italy was already locked down. I had the feeling that it would become worse, so I made some calls, but it seemed that it wouldn't be possible for me to go back to my country. After having two flights cancelled, and because I couldn't go back to the United States, as my visa was going to expire, I decided to seek shelter in the Dominican Republic (DR) for a while.

What was it like to arrive in the Dominican Republic at the very beginning of the pandemic? How was this situation over there?

There was little information about COVID-19 in DR and skepticism about this whole situation. I found out that there were political elections for the main cities when I arrived. So the situation probably wasn't clear, because the government didn't share the information properly before the election day. Citizens had a lot of questions about the situation, as they didn't really know what was going on, but no one was going to answer them. 

The first few days were okay. Without knowing anything about how my situation would turn out, I just started to express myself and took pictures. I didn't have my camera, because of some unfortunate events, but I decided to go out with my phone to capture this situation full of uncertainty. The unknown is always fascinating, at the end of the day. There were strange vibes in the air; you could read that very easily in the eyes of the people around. We didn't know what was going on within the country, and people were starting to realise that there was a real issue.

From your picture, there's a  still-life, that for me, says a lot. You can see that it's a personal space, a quiet space, but you can feel that it's not quiet outside. And that's why I really loved it. Where was it? 

It was my "hotel" room. It was a plain room. In some ways, it felt like being in prison, you know. I was stuck there and I still didn't know how I would get home. I was calling and sending emails everyday, but nothing. And at that time, I had a severe, unknown allergic reaction, so I went to the hospital with a motoconcho (a motorcycle-taxi), to cut through the traffic (and used the 50 pesos banknote you see on the chair to pay for it!). But there was not much to do, because the hospitals were starting to be filled with COVID-19 cases. I was saying to myself, don't let yourself down, you know. Don't let yourself down, because at the time, I had no idea was going to happen, you know? This picture expresses my mood in those circumstances very well.


It must have been a crazy time, and I think that's something we can really see in your pictures. When I look at them, I can feel the fear from the uncertainty of the situation. But I also feel a sense of not belonging, that the images are taken from the eye of an outsider.

After just a week, everything was different already. Every day was something new. And as we all did, I lived day by day, if not hour by hour. I saw this climax of chaos going on, from the first day I arrived. At first, as I said, people didn't know. But then, when other countries started to repatriate their citizens, and the Dominican Republic was left without tourists, was when some troubles started. In a country like DR, in which a huge part of revenue comes from tourism, if you don't have tourists, I'll let you imagine what that does. And it was that fear and uncertainty that I was seeing in the eyes of the people there. 

I was having coffee and talking to someone, trying to figure out what was going on with the Dominican government. When I took that picture, there was no clarity on the situation. At this time, I could see people transitioning, finding new ways to work, even kids. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, kids in DR usually got oysters from the sea to sell to tourists. So the transition was particularly interesting, because without tourists, there was no one left to eat the fresh seafood anymore. Their businesses changed to selling hand sanitizer and masks, instead. 

In this image, you can see a boy with a mask and bottle of alcohol, adapting to the new reality, selling a hand sanitizing service. I could see in his eyes a certain strength, of being able to adapt to anything, no matter what. Seeing that transition here was even more powerful, because he's just a kid.


So you found yourself in a very chaotic situation without any news from the Italian government. Did you know how you would be able to get back home? 

I was literally stuck. I was in the North of the island, in Puerto Plata, in contact with the embassy in Santo Domingo, trying to seek information on how to go back home. I tried to contact everyone I could think of, even the New York City embassy, just to find answers, but there were none. So the first two and a half weeks I was there, I didn't know anything, not even how or when I could go back to Italy.

The situation in the Dominican Republic got a little bit clearer after the elections. I still remember: it was a Sunday. Everything moved so fast after then. The day after, on Monday, they shared news out of the blue that there were more COVID-19 cases and deaths, and that there would be a mandatory curfew at 8PM. The curfew, there's a specific sound for that, you know, a sound that you usually hear only in movies... Everything moved so fast after the elections, and there were riots in some parts of DR, and a hate for tourists and foreigners started, because of stories that Europeans brought the virus to the Island.


In one of your pictures you can see what looks like a policeman. Who is he? 

He's not a member of the police, but he's a member of this private police, or the community police, as they call themselves. I found this hotel in the centre of Puerto Plata, with this interesting character. He was the owner of the hotel. Some people said he was a fanatic. Some people said that he was a hero, or some said even that he was a saint. He was a particular character. And basically, he created this private police that was living in his hotel, and they were always going around on patrols with guns. Things, you know, were getting a little bit tense, but I felt safe even through this period. For the people of the city, this private police was like an institution, more than the actual police. I took this picture from below to underline the way people in the community are seeing them. And also to show their patriotism, because that is the thing that drives them: the patriotism for their country and the care for their neighbours, for their cities, for the Dominican Republic and for Puerto Plata citizens.

Without your camera equipment, you shot these images on your phone. Do you think that was an important part of the process?

Yeah, definitely. Because it was something that was happening in a more easy way, let's say. The phone is something that is used daily, something that is more familiar. It is also something more immediate, more intuitive. During this period, where the situation was getting more tense and people were experiencing some violence, shooting with a phone was less intimidating, especially that I was exploring different Dominican favelas. 

I'm thinking about this very strong photograph of those two guys posing for you, where you can feel the energy, the roughness of the situation. Can you give me a bit more context about this picture?

I found myself walking in the barrio (DR favela) and I ended up on this little street, where there was a crack house, basically. The people in the house stopped me, so I started talking to them. The guy on the left, a guy from Norway, I met there. He was living in the barrio. And the other guy, on the right, is basically the head of the crack house. 

I can see that they really wanted to pose for you...

Actually that's one of my few pictures where people are really posing. They were high and wanted to take some pictures. The setting was great: I saw the Bible on the floor close to the needles, to drugs. Seeing this bible in a crack house on the floor, in the dirt, close to drugs, was a very strong image. 


Because you mostly work in fashion, I wanted to know if you've taken any learnings from your fashion photography practice and applied them to this project. And on the flip side, did you learn some things through this project that you're going to carry on to your fashion photography practice? 

Of course it's totally different, but I actually don't see that much of a difference, because it's all about the way that you deal with people, you know? Of course, reportage photography and its vibe are very different to fashion photography, but in both, there is an interaction with people. I like to think of myself as a friendly and engaging person, and in my opinion, these things are fundamental to do reportage photography, or fashion photography. It's always about the way that you interact with people, at the end of the day.


So when I saw this guy in the street, for example, I told him “you are beautiful, let me take a picture.” He was wearing this red tee shirt, smiling, and smoking against this terracotta wall. So I asked him if I could take his picture, but not in a posed way. I'm not that kind of photographer, even in fashion. I don't like poses; I like something more dynamic. I just like to go with the flow, you know, always trying to be respectful of the other human being. Of course with a camera, it's always different than with a phone, you know, because people get intimidated by a camera - especially me! That's why I'm the photographer.

Your images from DR really tell a story: they tell your story, but also the story of the Dominican Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic. So what are you going to do next with this project? 

Thank you. It came very naturally: I love people, and I love to connect with people. So I wanted to talk to them and learn their stories. I was doing reportage when I started photography, and then I stopped. Maybe because of time. You know, in London and in New York, there is no time. There's no time, and almost no need to document. But in the Dominican Republic, I found that part of myself again, because there was a need. So actually, although it wasn't easy, a part of me was happy to be stuck there without knowing what was going to happen to my situation. At first, I just took these pictures for myself. I had this strong drive to not let these moments fade, because it was such a strange and powerful period for everybody. And this is my story, my story during this worldwide crisis. I was talking with a friend of mine (she's a photo editor in Milan), to make a little zine with my images, and then to exhibit in Europe, and maybe Puerto Rico.

And would you like to take those pictures back to the Dominican Republic one day?

Yeah, definitely. I'm thinking about doing something in Puerto Plata, to show the vibe during the crisis, there, because Puerto Plata is not Santo Domingo. And most people know Santo Domingo, but Puerto Plata is more raw, more real. So, yes, it would be super interesting to take this project back to its origin in the future and see the reactions of people, relating to their experience seen through my pictures.

BOOKS

MOVIES

And finally, if you can, donate, sign and share - it can go a long way. Here are links to relevant charities and petitions (donating if you can, or signing and sharing petitions is great immediate help).

BLACK LIVES MATTER, TODAY AND ALWAYS.

All
By
September 14, 2020
Rolling until further notice
Music

Help Musicians: Fusion Fund

How much can you get? £2,000-£5,000

For professional musicians to undertake UK-based projects that develop and test new work, ideas or potential career directions through inspiring periods of collaborative research and development. We want to highlight that in this round we welcome applications that will explore the above through the use of remote, digital or online collaboration tools or performance spaces. For example, the use of Skype rehearsals or live streamed performance.

Eligibility

• UK-resident

• In financial need

• Have an active career as a musician

• Also open to bands up to 6 people

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About the project

During the COVID-19 lockdown, we got in touch with members of our creative community to find out how they were dealing with the crisis, and how they adapted their creative practices to the new realities. First, we spoke with ealy SSSHAKE member, Jacopo Marchio. A talented photographer, Jacopo fluidly moves through genres, breaking their rigid boundaries. Over the years, Jacopo has explored many different approaches to photography. His project Bunny Key is an autobiographical self-portrait series exploring social conformity and compliance, while his most recent works include editorial shoots in London, working with Kaltblut Magazine and French Fries Magazine, among others. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jacopo was working between the US and Europe. We decided to catch up with him to hear about his experience and understand how the crisis affected his photography practice. 

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