Covid Projects: Billy Hickey: How We Were
I had the great pleasure of meeting Billy Hickey at the ICP Virtual Portfolio Reviews in 2020. During the reviews, he shared a personal project, How We Were, born of events created by the pandemic when he returned home to Massachusetts for an appointment, only to find that he needed to stay put. It’s never easy to return to the familial home once you are officially launched into the world, but eventually he realized that documenting family during this historic time was as important as documenting strangers in other parts of the world. The photographs reveal a family trying to learn how to share space again, this time as adults, with a need to seek solitude and comfort in small things.
Billy Hickey is a documentary and conservation photographer from Massachusetts. His work focuses on stories that take place where humans and nature collide. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology and before arriving in photography, Hickey worked with visually impaired children, volunteered across New Zealand and traversed the U.S. in a camper van documenting the highest nature points in over 25 states. In 2020 he graduated from the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism Program at the International Center of Photography in New York City. His work has been featured by Fotodemic, Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie (OKS), Berlin and B&H Explora Blog. He is currently based in Massachusetts and is available for assignments. @ahickeysituation
How We Were
I have moved away from home many times, but I always seem to return. I stay for a spell, saving up money for my next journey, whether it was flying to New Zealand and living out of a station wagon with one of my best friends or embarking on a journey to hike the high point in each state in the contiguous U.S. This time I was chasing a new dream, fully committing to something after drifting around for most of my adult life. I was moving to New York to go to school for photography; things were going well, I met cool people from every corner of the earth, I was navigating through an intimidating new place, and I was reveling in the uplifting feeling of learning about something you truly enjoy. Then March happened. A trip home for an appointment became a permanent stay. I was ripped away from my new life in New York, a plant plucked before it blossomed. My New York roommates were replaced with the familiar habits of my parents and sister.
Around early April I started photographing our experience. Shortly after my sister, an oncology nurse, tested positive for the virus. We were quarantined together for the next few months, a family reunited in increasingly surreal circumstances in a house that has never felt so small. A tale of love and uncertainty, “How We Were” is a documentation of the strange quirks and mundane repetition of our lives together during a global pandemic as normal life seemed to crumble apart.
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