Portrait Photography Project Captures People in Quarantine Around the World

Ale Burset's Us by Us uses videoconferencing to shoot remote portraits

photo of a man and woman on a laptop
Burset's Us by Us project remotely captures people around the world, including the Amazonas in Brazil. Ale Burset
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

Photographer Ale Burset has shot campaigns for Burger King, Volkswagen, Lavazza and Nike, but his latest project isn’t connected to a major brand.

The Madrid-based photographer has started a new portrait project, which captures people socially distancing at their homes during the pandemic. To photograph his subjects, Burset doesn’t leave his home, either.

Since March, Burset has shot portraits of over 130 people around the world for his non-commercial project called Us by Us. Burset, who’s originally from Argentina and has worked in the advertising world since 2002, said he was inspired to start the remote portrait series to demonstrate how people are having a universal experience. The project has also allowed Burset to continue doing what he loves—shooting portraits—while it’s physically unsafe to do so.

“This project is a metaphor about physical distance meaning nothing,” Burset said. “There’s no distance between us right now because we’re all in the same situation.”

Chloe Bello in Madrid
Ale Burset

Burset shoots each portrait using the same technique. He connects with a subject using the videoconferencing platform BlueJeans and photographs his laptop to show them in their home onscreen with his own environment in the background.

He said he chose this style for the project after he was inspired by uploading an image of his son on his laptop at the onset of the pandemic. He kicked off the series by photographing friends and contacts in the advertising industry and is continuing to grow the series based on word of mouth.

Peter Detwiler in Alaska
Ale Burset

Burset noted one of the most exciting parts of the project is that he’s been able to virtually travel to multiple countries each day, with the list of new places growing. So far, he’s taken portraits of people in Mongolia, Switzerland, Nepal, Tanzania, Amazonas, Brazil and the U.S. Prior to chatting with Adweek on Friday, he had photographed people in Antarctica and a surfer in Sri Lanka.

While Burset isn’t profiting off Us by Us, he said once the project is over that he may create and sell a limited edition book of the portraits, with proceeds going to a health organization that has been fighting Covid-19. He also said he intends to give the completed project to a museum as a “registry of this lockdown around the world.”

Tim Jones in New York
Ale Burset

Burset said he will continue to shoot the portraits until life around the world returns to some semblance of normal.

“This project has given me an incredible experience I haven’t had before,” he said. “I feel the same emotions as if it were an in-person shoot. You still get that connection because we’re sharing the same feeling at the same moment.”

ian.zelaya@adweek.com Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.