By Mariusz Bogacki
Freelance documentary photographer Mariusz Bogacki has created a visual diary of his “mundane” life during a two-week Covid-19 quarantine in a 19-metre square hotel room last month. From binge watching films by Wong Kar-wai to practising yoga, the Hong Kong visitor shares – in his own words – how he endured isolation, and his hope for a return to a pre-pandemic, “normal” life.
When the Hong Kong government announced in early August that non-residents would be allowed to come to Hong Kong again, I quickly booked my flights and a quarantine hotel. A day before my departure the government changed the rules and I was informed I would have to quarantine for 14 days (with no option of shortening it).
I decided then to document this period photographically, one image per day. I challenged myself, amid the spatial restrictions and monotonous environment, to create a visually pleasing essay.
I was lucky to have a room where I could open the window slightly, allowing me not only to get some fresh air but to explore the different photographic angles. Fourteen days quarantine is tough but the camera and this project kept me going.
I tried to photograph daily scenes and seemingly mundane aspects of life. My hope was that the pictures would resonate with all those who have to endure this isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021.
I started my quarantine on Sunday and the first couple of days of isolation were OK. I was getting over the jet-lag and enjoyed the novelty of being in a hotel room. Big bed, telly on the wall, internet. I set up a little work station and rearranged the room so I could practise yoga. Stretching and gymnastics were crucial as I could not leave the 19 square meter room – not even for a walk in the corridor.
I kept my usual daily routine in the first week and managed to carry on working – even though the uncomfortable working position was starting to weary me. Over the weekend I treated myself to a nice takeaway and some beers, and re-watched my favourite Wong Kar Wai films. I listened to music, danced and did my own washing. I was trying to maintain a normal lifestyle.
However, by day seven or eight, it was getting more difficult. Because of the time difference I was not always able to catch up with my family and friends. As the second week went on, I began losing track of time and could not concentrate on my work. The same walls, same views, no sight of a human face apart from the staff doing the routine PCR tests (I was not allowed to take a photo of the procedure).
By day nine or ten I was feeling pretty down. I spent an entire two days in bed, binge-watching videos on YouTube. I was getting confused as to whether I had had a shower already or not. As much as I love Chinese food, I could not look at rice anymore, which was served at least twice a day. I was bored of takeaways and they were also adding expense to my already costly journey.
It was only by the last day of my stay that I perked up again a little – only hours to go. I packed up everything and went to bed early in order to wake up as early as possible and leave for hopefully the last time. The prolonged isolation definitely affects the mental condition of people who have to endure it. I’m left wondering about what the long term effects might be on individuals, as well as society. I consider myself lucky I could afford a room of this size and with such a view.
My thoughts at this stage go out to all those who have to endure the 21-day quarantine. I hope that as vaccination progresses, we can finally battle the virus and return to whatever normal life was prior to 2020. I’m also very thankful to the front-line workers who serve travellers at the airport and the hotel staff for good service.