Turning Zoom Into My Artistic Tool

Learning to photograph through a computer screen involved lots of errors, but once I learned to deal with them, I fell in love with the results.


UCCS senior Arantxa Chavez in her apartment’s balcony in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Chavez had recently moved in with her partner when the stay-at-home order began so they spent their quarantine unpacking and decorating their new place

Alejandra Arevalo, Contributing Writer

When I was told that NYU would be fully online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, something didn’t sit right with me. I had said goodbye to some friends but didn’t have the chance to see others before leaving. Now I am miles apart from them without a date to meet again. I moved back to L.A., realizing I wouldn’t be able to have anymore NYC photoshoots with my friends anytime soon.

Quarantine turned from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, and the list of things to do at home was getting shorter every day. It wasn’t until I saw the FaceTime photoshoot of Bella Hadid for Vogue Italia that something clicked. Rather than give up my passion for photography, I thought this was the chance to transform my practice and adapt to the new reality. This is how I ended up holding Zoom photoshoots with my college and high school friends for this project. I’m not going to lie, the shoots weren’t easy. We had to deal with bad WiFi and terrible lighting. At first, those mishaps annoyed me, but as I became more comfortable with the application as an artistic tool, I felt that I didn’t have to fix those things. The blurs, the dots, the lines — all those elements added to the uniqueness of this creative medium.

This is a selection of black and white photographs that came to be from over a dozen Zoom photo sessions that I held over the summer. Nothing was premeditated. I let my subjects play a major role in the creation process and come up with poses and props as we shot. In between poses and after the shoots, we would talk about anything and everything. How’s quarantine in [insert place here] going? Are you still in touch with [insert name here]? Oh my god, remember when [insert anecdote here] happened? In a way, the photoshoots became an excuse for me to connect with people that I had meant to stay in touch with but couldn’t due to the circumstances. From New York to Chicago and Zambia to Peru, my subjects were everywhere and shared a little piece of their lives in these photos.

CAS alum Teddy Voyer in his Manhattan apartment. Voyer spent his quarantine days doing remote work and sharing his healthy lifestyle journey in his YouTube channel Regular Guy Fitness.
Nicol Rebata outside her house in Zambia. Before the pandemic, she was studying in England but then decided to take some time off and live with her parents.
Steinhardt senior Joey Patt in their backyard at home in the Chicago suburbs. For Patt, the summer quarantine was a time for resting and reconnecting with their friends and family.
SUNY Plattsburgh senior Andrea Cuadros in her relative’s apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico. What she thought would be a short Spring Break trip to the island became a summer long stay because of the pandemic.
Singer Micaela Minaya playing her acoustic guitar at home in Lima, Peru. Although the pandemic hit the music scene and halted her plans of attending Berklee College of Music, Minaya kept making and sharing music with her followers on social media.
Stern alum Eric Hausken reaching out to the sky from his sunroom in Bay Area, California. After graduating from NYU in December, Hausken moved back to his hometown and now spends his days working remotely and playing with his cats Poppy and Cozy.
Stern senior Jared Patel staring at a painting in his home in Upstate New York. After the pandemic cut short the spring semester, Patel moved with his parents with plans to go back to the city once the new term began.
Tisch senior Lorena Guillen holding a bouquet of flowers at home in the Atlanta area. Guillen spent her quarantine shooting videos about fashion, beauty and college life for her YouTube channel.
Tisch senior Paula Leon at her boyfriend’s home in Long Island. Leon’s quarantine project was building a website called Mi Voce y La Tuya, where she will be telling stories about BIPOC in the entertainment industry.
UCCS senior Arantxa Chavez in her apartment’s balcony in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Chavez had recently moved in with her partner when the stay-at-home order began so they spent their quarantine unpacking and decorating their new place.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, e-print edition. Email Alejandra Arevalo at [email protected]