On New Years Eve in 2020, Valentin Goppel began to photograph his friends and acquaintances in an attempt to both process and represent the disorientation he felt during the time of Covid. Through taking pictures of his friends he found a way to deal with the state of uncertainty. It wasn’t difficult for him to explain to them the pictures he was looking for—they were all in the middle of the same situation and felt connected in a state of limbo.
The book’s title Zwischen den Jahren, describes the time between Christmas and New Year—the time between years. It acts as a metaphor to explain the period of transition between child and adulthood, in addition to the sense of suspended time or paralysis between before the Covid pandemic and an unknown future.
‘I tried to find ways to express the diffuse of feelings of growing up in the ‘time of corona.’ Not knowing where to hold on when everything is shaking around you may just be natural during the period in life when one is no longer a child, but not yet an adult. The pandemic worked as a catalyst to my disorientation, bringing to light the inner conflicts that had been well contained by the right environment and sufficient distraction. They finally broke free and took the space they had always silently demanded.’
The photographs in the book are a combination of observed and staged moments, and recreated memories. The young people they depict are often lit by the light of a phone or laptop, as they are pictured in small groups or alone in kitchens, bedrooms, on urban streets or in the midst of Covid-compliant nature. Where family groups are shown, often at dining room tables, the images reflect the silence and shared tension between the generations. As the book progresses, a sense of isolation increases, even those in groups often appear alone in contemplation. There is only one crowd scene in the book, incongruous, and jarring against the isolation which had become the norm.
‘Before the pandemic, one in ten German teenagers showed symptoms of depression. At the end of the first lockdown, it was one in four. Many of my friends had trouble reconnecting with their social lives after the lockdown and I was no different. I have yet to go back to university. The message I wrote to my parents at the beginning of the pandemic was preserved in a picture frame as a document of time. For months, it sat in a moving box in my new flat share.