Adad Hannah | Social Distancing Portraits

Adad Hannah (BFA 1998) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes installation, video, and photography. We reached out to him a couple of weeks ago after coming across his latest project, ‘Social Distancing Portraits’. The portraits, a surreal and often literal commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic, are actually short unedited videos shot from at least 5m away with a long lens.

Adad prefaces the project on his website:

I got frustrated with feeling paralyzed – sitting at home endlessly reading the news – and decided to do the only thing I’m qualified to do and make some art. I put a long lens on my camera and headed out by foot. As I walked towards the shopping centre I asked people from a distance if I could take their pictures from far away. Many said no, but some said yes. I wanted to see if I could capture this strange tense in-between moment we are currently in. Things are changing fast yet we’re also sort of stuck in time not knowing what comes next

Social Distancing Video Portrait 18 – Jaya

The project has been gaining a large following as well as media attention from the likes of The Vancouver SunMOMUS magazine and The Georgia Straight. Original music created by Montreal-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, Brigitte Dajczer (@brigamusic), adds another dimension to the portraits. Ranging from uplifting to poignant, the compositions at times leave the viewer with a subtle sense of apprehension. Each portrait also includes brief excerpts from subjects that share common themes — uncertainty, boredom, financial stress, frustration. As the series progresses there is a slight shift, we begin to see more humour, creativity, and optimism.  

Social Distancing Video Portrait 53 – Annika

Portrait 1 didn’t have a title because, at the time, Adad didn’t intend to create a series. Several times over the past few weeks, he felt that it was enough, that he might shelve the project. But then he’d receive a comment or note from someone that would spur him on. What he then began to notice was an emotional arc in the project, what he dubs as “a series of human data points that map out several competing and intertwined paths as we all fumble through this strange time”.

“What started as a single video on March 14 has now turned into an extended project with no clear sign of where it will end,” says Adad. “It’s been quite interesting to talk to strangers during this stressful yet oddly calm period.”

As of today’s posting, there are now 85 portraits in the series.

Follow Adad on Instagram @adadhannah to see the ongoing series. Social Distancing Portraits are also featured online as part of the Capture Photography Festival.


Feature Image | Social Distancing Video Portraits 61 Natasha, 57 Rowan and Andrew, and 31 Qadir

Adad Hannah was born in New York and raised in Israel, England, and Vancouver. He received his BFA from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, and was awarded his MFA and PhD from Concordia University, Montreal. For over a decade, Hannah has been exploring the ways that the mediums of video and photography can be used to explore ideas around performance, temporality, and the indexical quality of photography.

Hannah has exhibited widely across Canada and internationally, including exhibitions at the Samsung LEEUM Museum, Seoul; Prague Biennial; Museo de Bellas Artes, Santiago; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Zendai MoMA, Shanghai; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Koffler Centre of the Arts, Toronto; and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Bio from the Capture Photography Festival

Adad is represented by Equinox Gallery, Vancouver and Pierre-François Ouellette de contemporain, Montreal.

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