Health

Quaranteen: Picturing young lives in isolation

Photographers Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni spoke with teens around the world, and made portraits of them using Zoom videoconferencing. The teenagers contributed snapshots of their lives offline.

Portraits by Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni for POLITICO

Lily, 13

Thon-Samson, Belgium

Lily takes circus classes and enjoys drawing, creating collages and horseback riding — all things that shes suddenly got much more time for. She lives with her parents and her 11-year-old brother, César. Living in the countryside gives her the opportunity to take long walks — or rides — in wide-open fields.

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

I dont do online courses, but teachers are sending us homework. Im lucky because I have a pony to take care of. We went for a lot of rides. César on his bike, my parents on foot and me on the pony. I also do a lot of baking. Since the lockdown, weve started baking our own bread without a machine!

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Im very worried about the most vulnerable, the elderly … but also isolated people, those living on the streets, refugees, people who dont have much money … Im especially nervous about how we recover after confinement is over.

What lessons can we learn from all this?

Weve realized that we can live differently: moving around less, making more things at home and buying less as we can live very well without.

Laila, 17

West London

Lailas attending the William Morris Sixth Form college in Hammersmith. She wants to become a makeup artist, and the lockdown has allowed her more time to create tutorials for her Instagram followers.

What are you up to?

Im staying at home, which is frustrating as I miss my friends. But I remind myself that going out isnt worth the risk — to myself or others. On a normal day, Id get up early to get ready for school. Now Im able to have a lie-in for a bit longer if I want, and Ive got loads of free time.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Quite. When you see the number of people infected, and dying, its hard not to be. But if everyone does whats being asked, hopefully the time will fly by, those numbers will decrease, and eventually itll be safe for us all to get back to normal routines.

How are you keeping informed?

I get notifications on my phone, and watch the news with my family.

Do you think life will be different once this is over?

Mine probably wont be much different, but I dont know whats going to happen in terms of my education and I really wish I could have more insight into whats going on there.

Jules, 13

Flawinne, Belgium

Jules started taking piano lessons a few months ago and now with the quarantine is practicing much more. Hes also a badminton fan. His dad bought a foosball table and they now play together a lot when theyre stuck inside.

How are you?

Im doing quite well, but I would like to see my friends again. Ive found that some people are very responsible; they understand the situation well and try to stop the spread as much as possible. But because of others [flouting] the rules, their efforts arent being rewarded.

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

At least once a day, Ill run or ride my bike to get some exercise. I use my phone, cook and read comic books.

How are you keeping informed?

I watch the news but I dont want to get too depressed … so I dont watch it every day.

Do you think life will be different once this is over?

There is good coming out of this confinement: People pollute much less. So I hope that some of these new habits take hold; that could be beneficial for everyone.

Yasser, 18

Marrakech, Morocco

Yasser is a first-year student at the Higher School Prepatory, which has been closed for a month now. Hes spending the quarantine period with his mom, sister and “of course my six lovely cats.”

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

Im focused on staying fit and working out a lot since I have so much time to myself. I play video games with friends and watch movies on Netflix too.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Im worried, like everyone else. I dont want the situation to get even worse than it is right now. Not everyone seems fully aware of the danger, which is why my country and the government are working hard to find solutions.

What lessons can we learn from all this?

Theres no way to know what could happen a few months from now, let alone a year, so stop being lazy, enjoy your life and learn how to be content alone.

Charlotte, 17

Wiesbaden, Germany

Charlotte is an ex-Londoner attending a bilingual school in Germany. “Its now a cyber school,” she says. “Ive been granted the liberty of adopting a sleep rhythm fit for a teenager: Im getting nine hours of sleep a night and have truly never been better.” She and her friends have taken up an old-fashioned pursuit — letter writing — as a way to keep in touch more thoughtfully. She sees Germanys response to the coronavirus as level-headed: “The pandemic is neither dramatized nor belittled.”

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

I make sure to find time for exercise. Long-distance running is helping me out immensely. Its a pillar of my mental health, but I could never keep it up consistently during proper school. Im the editor of my school newspaper, so Ive been doing what I can to make sure it comes out continually. Instead of print, students get a PDF issue. [Editors note: Just like POLITICOs readers!] I like to listen to loud music and have a dance party every once in a while, to the annoyance of my brother next door.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Thankfully, I live in a town that hasnt been hit that hard by the virus. I know that I am in a very privileged position and many, who are in the thick of things, are suffering unimaginably, health-wise, financially. If anything, Im worried that world leaders wont learn from the spotlight that has been shined on this inequality.

How are you keeping informed?

I dont feel the need to read the news. I know that one day it will all blow over. Thats what I know and its all I need to know.

Do you think life will be different once this is over?

I hope it will be. I hope the pandemic will prioritize the changes the world needs in health care, equality, global cooperation and climate change.

What lessons can we learn from all this?

Humans arent that bad after all. Everybody is so willing to help. The solidarity with health care workers warms my heart.

Julien, 15

Rome

Julian is in his second year at C. Cavour, a science high school in Rome. Despite some connectivity issues, he says online schooling is going well. “We have regular lessons every day — too many, even! Its nice that its easier to consult books during tests.” Hes been outside a few times to jog; hes a high-jump athlete.

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

I spend my days mainly on my phone or computer. Im very homely, and I dont even mind the fact that I cant physically see my friends — Im happy to see them virtually on video calls. Im amazed at how easy it is for me to stay home; I have no desire to go outside at all.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Not very.

How are you keeping informed?

I watch the news from time to time, but Im not too up-to-date on how the pandemic is developing.

Do you think life will be different once this is over?

Everything will go back to the way it was before.

Hasna, 17

Marrakech, Morocco

Hasnas school has been closed since March 16. Online lessons followed, but only a few teachers are involved. Shes spending time with her family, “especially my older sister Chaimae who helps me to not feel any emptiness,” she says. “And I always do a video call with my rugby girls whom I miss so badly.”

What are you up to?

Im working out, cooking, reading. The situation is getting worse every day, so Im obliged to stay at home. Its difficult to adapt, but in such circumstances, we must be patient.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Very. Whats happening now affects all of us, as the number of deaths continues to increase. Who knows, tomorrow I could lose people I love as well.

How are you keeping informed?

I look at the news on a daily basis, though I try not to be too affected by it. Im trying to be optimistic.

What lessons can we learn from all this?

Prevention is better than a cure. Doctors and nurses need to be paid more. Theyre working with scientists, day and night, to drive the recovery of the world.

Edouard, 15

Sorinne-la-Longue, Belgium

Edouard loves to cook and play basketball. Being confined to his house allows for more time of both — hes cooking meals for his family, refining his kitchen skills and playing basketball in the garden, where hes set up a hoop.

What are you up to, aside from doing some school work online?

I live at home with my parents and three sisters, so I do a little bit of school work, and a lot of sports. Some teachers are sending us some work to do on the schools platform, but I really dont have a lot to do. I read a lot of comics and watch a lot of TV. I ride my bike with my dad. Im trying to have some fun and do things that I wouldnt have thought of without the lockdown.

How worried are you about the pandemic?

Im really worried about the poor and about the developing countries, since they may not have the means to help people infected with the virus. It could be a real disaster.

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