Pandemic Peeps: Paul Clemence

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Month 5.

Month 5 who?

Yeah, y’ know…Month 5 (dude) of the COVID-19 global pandemic and – shudder – of this generalized global shutdown that has ensued and that stubbornly won’t let up unless we all wear our masks, already, and we all make ourselves scarce so that we are not part of the spread of this novel coronavirus for which there is still no cure.

I’m not gonna get angry…I’m not. Because we carry, don’t we.

You know we do.

We live our lives, and we look out for one another, and we check in on our people and those who need it and those who want it. And on those we have met along the way.

Photo: Courtesy

One of the first people I ever interviewed, for Miami Beach’s Wire Magazine (legit no joke, a lifetime ago), is Paul Clemence, a photographer and visual artist from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who is now based in Brooklyn, N.Y. If memory serves (and it does – it was not that long ago that we first met, OK), we talked about one of his books, a veritable photographic time capsule titled SOUTH BEACH architectural photographs: art deco to contemporary. We caught up recently.

King of Cups: How have you been doing this season of self-isolation?

Paul Clemence: All things considered, everything has been OK. Keeping healthy and sane. And busy. Between organizing my photo archives (something I have been procrastinating for a long, very long while) and even shooting new material, there has been plenty to do. I’ve actually shot quite a bit, trying to capture this unique moment in New York City, especially at the very beginning of lockdown, when all was so quiet. Architecture being the main focus of my work, I thought it would be a great opportunity to register some of the city’s most iconic landmarks taking a respite from the throngs of visitors. But, curiously, at each spot I kept encountering some people there. Most were alone, enjoying a quiet (and usually rare) moment of public solitude in the city, in their own way, whether reading a book, skateboarding or just basking in the sun. So, slowly, the theme went from architecture and the city in that moment in time to its people and how they were dealing with that moment. It was early April, it was still cold, and there was still the novelty of the circumstance. I went from The Metropolitan Museum all the way south to the Whitney. In the end, even while under quarantine, the city was all about its characters. It was a day I will never forget! The city was maybe on “Pause,” but it for sure still had a pulse!

Photo: Paul Clemence

King of Cups: How are things with the family and/or work?

Paul Clemence: It’s, indeed, a challenging time. I work in a variety of ways, from publishing to art sales, and though things are certainly slower, I have been able to keep busy. But I do think this is an opportunity for a reboot, so I am also taking this time to rethink priorities, both professional and personal.

King of Cups: Looking within, what trait do you feel has helped you carry on the most?

Paul Clemence: That’s a great question. I would say introspection; if you don’t have a healthy and consistent mental and spiritual self-examination, these socially isolated times I believe are even harder. And my creative spirit.

Photo: Paul Clemence

King of Cups: What have you noticed is most needed in your community?

Paul Clemence: Empathy – both the pandemic [at first] and later the protests made that very clear. Empathy and whatever is the opposite of outrage. We will all, as in from all sides, positions and opinions, only evolve and survive this challenging time if we rise, respectfully, above the differences and understand we are all in this moment together.

King of Cups: What do you hope will be the takeaway from this moment?

Paul Clemence: An increase in empathy and careful thoughtfulness.

Photo: Paul Clemence

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