"In March 2020, due to this coronavirus crisis, we were all stuck at home. From there I realised that we were going to be in lockdown, at home with a single solitary view from our window for many long weeks, maybe months ... We are three million people connected, thanks to the group."
The View from my window (VFMW) Facebook group (3 million members) publishes thousands of photographs from members' COVID-19-era views from their homes, from São Paulo, to Durban, to New York.
(VFMW also includes two books and an upcoming exhibition in Brussels.)
Menán van Heerden chats to Belgian founder Barbara Duriau.
Hi Barbara, thank you for chatting to Voertaal! Tell us more about the concept and the inspiration behind it.
Also: What nationality are you and how has the pandemic impacted your country / where you live?
In March 2020, due to this coronavirus crisis, we were all stuck at home. From there I realised that we were going to be in lockdown, at home with a single solitary view from our window for many long weeks, maybe months.
Being curious and a globetrotter I thought to myself: What is that view on the other side of the world?
And what if I asked internet users to take photos of their views and share them with other isolated people?
Assuming we were all in the same boat, with the same wish of escape and connections it was a way to connect people across the world!
On 23 March 2020 VFMW was born!
- View Barbara's view from her window in Amsterdam here.
The VFMW photographs remind me of the Instagram “Everyday” concept, for example: Everyday Africa ("Photographers living and working in Africa, finding the extreme not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday") and Everyday India ("A collective of storytellers chronicling the everyday lives and interesting stories across India").
How does VFMW capture the "everyday" in not so everyday circumstances?
Very soon the views gave way to life stories. It’s just someone’s little corner of our world. Far from just a view, a real global community has been created. It's a human chain! From New York to Moscow, via Brussels, Tokyo, Venice, Mumbai, São Paulo, Sydney, Darjeeling, etc – all countries were reached.
The international press grabbed hold of the subject, which was positive in these gloomy times. When all the media were spreading bad news, the group brought positive news, without judgement. They were called the feel-good group. People needed fresh, healthy air and escape. People wanted to share their real life, the simple life, without time zones, difference of cultures or ideologies.
What did you learn from the project? For example, what would you say are the most surprising/interesting photos for you?
VFMW has been compiled into two thick volumes – congrats! On your website it states: "These photos could not remain virtual."
Did you make a selection from the 200 000 photos?
At the beginning, receiving all pictures from all over the world was crazy! But over time I realised that the stories and people behind all these stunning or humble views had more impact on me, and on all members!
It’s like entering into the inner world of each person.
If we’re talking only about photos, I love the two covers I chose for the books: Utne, Norway, which leaves a lot to the imagination, and the one in central NY, which is poetic and so meaningful.
There are some amazing ones, like Abu Dhabi in the clouds or a view of a small snowy campsite in Italy, which is very intimate, one of my crushes.
The choice of the photos came about quite naturally, thanks also to my graphic eye.
But above all, it is the stories behind the pictures that touch me. They are funny or moving, and some give me goosebumps.
They are more than books of views; they are books of lives!
Where are the books available? Is there a volume 3 in the works?
Books are available on the official website: www.viewfrommywindow.world.
And in bookstores only in Belgium.
Books are testimony of our lockdown. They are a part of history, connected together in quarantine.
If there is a volume 3, it won’t be about COVID-19, but something completely different.
What does your view from your window look like? Also: Is it different now, in January 2022, from what it was in March 2020?
I live between Brussels and Amsterdam, but this is the view in Amsterdam that inspires me: I live on the edge of a canal, in a part of the city which looks like a village.
What are the specifications with regard to posting in the group?
There are strict rules that the members have to follow in the hope to be published. And they have to be patient while we have more than a thousand posts a day to process, one by one, according to the rules.
If we don’t follow the rules, it would be a real mess, I can swear to that! 🙂
For example: The post must include town and country. One photo per member. The view must be taken from your permanent home and be the subject.
No people recognisable.
And be kind and courteous! 🙂
Are people still posting, even though lockdowns have eased, to varying degrees, across the world?
The group continues to grow, and the group is taking shape in real meetings. That’s the most interesting for me now! People want to visit one another! The group is turning into genuine, unconditional friendships!
Sometimes it helps them to realise, as well, that they have survived through this pandemic and that life goes on!
How did people respond to this group during the difficult pandemic times?
It took of so quickly! I haven’t had the time to breathe …
March 31, 2020
50 000 people are connected.
April 15, 2020
The group has one million members all around the world.
April 26, 2020
Two million people have joined the VFMW community.
We are three million people connected, thanks to the group.
I'm pleased to announce officially that the first View from my window exhibition will take place in Brussels, Belgium:
24 March 2022 to 2023.
View From My Window
« When one door closes, many, many windows open! »
« Lorsqu'une porte se ferme, de nombreuses fenêtres s'ouvrent ! »
« Wanneer een deur zich sluit, gaan veel ramen open! »
PLACE DE L’ATOMIUMPLEIN 1
> All photographs are published with permission from View from my window.