At the core of these works is a collaboration between filmmaker Christine Sloan Stoddard and musician John Davis, who began the venture back in March. Along the way, they have brought in photographers to contribute to the creative effort.
As New Yorkers begin to emerge from their homes and we enter month six of this crisis, the team’s latest partnership with photographer Dmitriy Kosoy is “To Doa Abbas,” a project that takes on recurring themes of quarantine, isolation and longing from a fresh perspective.
Unlike previous videos, in which Kosoy’s stills of faraway destinations are featured, “To Doa Abbas” focuses on a longing for more familiar places and people.
It is an orchestration by Stoddard of Kosoy’s photos of various locations around New York City, and some additional video imposed over a sentimental soundtrack produced by Davis.
“What inspired me about the pandemic was you went to this one place at some point in your life and now you aren’t able to, or they’re very different” relayed Kosoy. “The photos are a window to the past, a good memory or something you can look back on.
“But for people who haven't been to those places and can’t because of the pandemic,” he continued, “it’s a way for them to feel like they’re there, and maybe be inspired to visit in the future. Another kind of window.”
The piece is titled as an ode to Davis’ then-fiance (now wife) Doa Abbas, who was living across state lines when the pandemic began. A recurring image of the woman’s eyes pops up throughout the video.
Both Stoddard and Kosoy are based in Brooklyn, but Davis, a Queens native, currently resides in Corona.
Living in a neighborhood that made up part of what was often called the “epicenter of the epicenter” of a global health crisis, Davis was inundated with evidence of the disparate effects of the pandemic on some of the city’s most vulnerable communities.
Furthermore, Davis says he draws inspiration for his music from everyday experiences and interactions, which were noticeably lacking in days of quarantine, making the creative process difficult. Davis found himself taking extended bike rides across the city, sometimes 40 or 50 miles long, as an outlet.
“Nobody knew what tomorrow was going to bring,” he explained. “Some days you find yourself not creating, you feel like the world is closing in on you. Bike rides were an escape from that.”
As he rode, Davis would take videos of the neighborhoods he passed, eventually posting them to Instagram.
“I wanted to capture different parts of the city and what's going on there,” said Davis. “Just to see people’s daily lives and how they’re experiencing COVID.”
Stoddard had been following these adventures on social media, and noticed an intriguing shift in the tone and scenery of the videos as the pandemic progressed. She became interested in using the footage in one of their music videos, leading to its incorporation into the making of “To Doa Abbas.”
“Early in the pandemic the cityscape was a lot emptier and lonelier,” Stoddard recalled, “but as the weather started to warm up and businesses opened or extended hours, the videos had more going on.
“The idea is that even within our own city there are so many places that none of us have seen in a while because we’ve been so tied down to our homes and neighborhoods,” she added.
All three artists agree that the projects created during this unusual period can act as momentary suspensions of reality, as well as time capsules. In creating the videos, they invite viewers to find comfort, inspiration and hope through the computer screen.