For some creatives and freelancers in Paris, the confinement has been a time to re-think community, forge connections, and embrace flexibility both in terms of creative expression and—for many—professional goals. Though Kate Devine, Roxanne Matiz, Alexandra Rozhkova, and Molly Wilkinson all experienced this shift differently, their perspectives have more than a few things in common. Life has remained the same in some ways and abruptly changed in others. While many people learned how to work from home, for those who were already there, the confinement has been about learning how to combat feelings of uncertainty, concentrate on the good, and adapt for the future.
“When the confinement started in Paris, I felt both stuck and, paradoxically, completely untethered. Others’ lives changed in painfully quantifiable ways, but as someone who works from home, mine did not. Struggling to continue my thesis research on French literature, women & gender studies, and with all other projects on hold, whole days disappeared to re-organizing bookshelves, cleaning closets, making a bench—the sorts of projects even heavy procrastination usually won’t allow. At first, I was frustrated by the change, attributing it to everything from voluntary laziness to collective grief. The only thing that seemed certain was I no longer had any sense of control, of myself or the exterior world.
At some point, I gave up trying to fight it. Wanting to be outside, I began spending hours in my window, computer on my knees, half working, half watching for signs of others slowly finding their own confinement rhythms. The balconies and windows of their apartments and the street between us—these interstices linking and separating at the same time—held my attention. I began to know my neighbors: the girl who plays the ukulele, the family with a cat, the man who jumps rope, and the white-haired woman who tends to her flowers. I can’t say exactly when I began photographing what I’d been watching, but once I did, words began to flow too. And again, something shifted.
I felt suddenly better, different, less stuck, more sure. It was an immediate comfort to see how photography and writing could span this imposed divide, allowing for a renewed sense of connection during a time when intimacy feels so precious. Documenting this experience has not only changed my perception of my neighborhood and the people in it, but also helped me come to terms with the shifts I’ve felt in myself. Above all, I’ve learned that forced stagnation makes inner movement harder to ignore and sets creativity in flux. For over a month and a half now, I’ve been watching Paris through this kaleidoscope—my position unchanged, but my perspective shifting each evening, with each photo, each time I sit still enough to allow myself to do nothing but think.”
Bio: Kate Devine is a PhD student, writer, and photographer who moved to Paris from Nashville, TN in 2016. Her photography and writing are both deeply inspired by relationships—between people, between objects, between light and dark, between past and present. Kate’s doctoral research led to an interest in how the language we use shapes our reality. During confinement, she has been documenting the shifts in communication and connection that have happened as our lives have taken a turn inward. Kate’s photography and writing can be found on Instagram @deareverest.
“Confinement. The very word invokes feelings of entrapment, of feeling deprived and having no choice. Yet here I am, going on a month and a half of barely leaving my 28 m² (300 sq. ft.) apartment, except for necessary food runs, and I’m at peace.
It’s a Sunday morning; the sun is shining on a gorgeous spring day. A quiet has taken over the city, and in my small pocket of the 17th arrondissement, called Les Batignolles, I can hear the birds chirp as someone on my block plays “Dream a Little Dream of Me” on the piano. It’s all very cliché, I know, but as I take my coffee and read a book while sitting at my window, I feel truly grateful that if I’m going to be confined to one place in the world, at least it’s Paris.
And so life goes on. A life that previously consisted of photoshoots and traveling is now focused on the bit of work I can get during this time, reading, trying to learn new skills, and a lot of self-care. The only constant in our lives these days is the daily 8 p.m. applause for our healthcare workers, when we get to see our neighbors and thank our heroes.”
Bio: Roxanne Matiz is an interiors, travel, and lifestyle photographer. Originally from New York City, she has lived in Paris for five years, which she has documented on her Instagram (@roxannematiz). When she’s not working, she spends her days wandering the city in search of inspiration. She talks to anyone who will listen about the greatness of her neighborhood in the 17th, Les Batignolles. She loves a good picnic, a fresh baguette, and this quarantine she adopted a French dog, so life just got a bit more interesting.
“There is a joy in baking, a respite, a distraction. The first week of quarantine was full of stress and uncertainty, but maybe it was the perfect push? The streets suddenly went quiet and the runs to the food market that I loved so much were cut short and filled with anxiety. I run a small business out of my apartment teaching French pastry to small private groups.With several pastry classes lined up in April and May, I wasn’t sure how my business would work. For me, baking is a creative escape and I wanted to see if I could bring that little escape to others, virtually.
So I started baking, more and more, even though it’s just my partner and me. And everyone else was too! With lots of time at home, a batch of cookies is comforting! I hosted Surprise Bake-Alongs, a fun experience I do on Instagram Live where the ingredients and equipment are announced in advance, but not what we’ll be making. I love doing them as a way to interact virtually and introduce people to something new, like a super simple puff pastry.
Usually held once a month, these quickly moved to almost once a week. Then I launched an online pastry workshop—two weeks, two classes, all done live to provide a way to connect, learn a new skill, and make something delicious. It was meant to be a one-time special course to help me recoup from cancellations, but with its success and the start of an exciting new project, my days quickly changed. My mornings are filled with writing and computer work, and in the afternoons, my teaching space has turned into a recipe testing area and virtual classroom.
I go to the grocery store once each week and the cashiers probably think I’m one of those crazy hoarders. One such cashier even took a picture of the ten bars of butter I bought, which he stacked into a nice tower. I think of it as if I’m baking not just for myself, but for others too. Because even if I’m not able to share the dessert with them, they’re probably making it in their homes, filling their bellies and souls with hopefully a little touch of happiness.”
Bio: Molly Wilkinson is a pastry chef in Versailles. Originally from Dallas, Texas, in 2013, she changed careers to follow her passion by moving to Paris and studying pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. After working at several bakeries in both France and the U.S., she now teaches pastry out of her 18th-century apartment just a five-minute walk from Château de Versailles. Her method is all about making French pastry easy by breaking down recipes and showing lots of tips and tricks to help any baker achieve extraordinary results.
“I am a freelancer, so I love going outside and work from cafes, getting inspired by wandering in the streets of Paris. It was particularly hard not to be able to frequent my favorite places in the beginning.
I felt a bit lost and worried about the future. I used to work with many brands in the travel and food industries but 80% of current projects were immediately put on hold, and I had to postpone lots of personal and work trips, like so many of us. But, quickly enough, I found inspiration in everyday life, beginning to appreciate and be grateful for small things, like the sun shining brightly in my window, a long-awaited flower delivery, or a new recipe I finally found the time to try.
The current world situation is sad and uncertain, but I try to stay positive: I found solace in reading the books I stocked but never got to, and it seems I finally got rid of that FOMO feeling (but not yet sure). I hope that we will be able to travel once again soon, but until then, I’m grateful to discover my lovely neighborhood on short walks once a week and get to know the neighbors I see every day at 8 p.m. at their window. At this point, staying at home doesn’t seem like a high price to pay to save lives.”
Bio: Alexandra Rozhkova is a full-time blogger and photographer who spends her time wandering in Paris, discovering French regions, and going to places less traveled. Originally from Kalouga, Russia she is currently quarantined in Paris (Montmartre) and looking forward to freedom.
- Read our ideas for how you can lend a hand during COVID-19– whether by giving time, money, or other forms of support.
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- Here’s our guide for how to improve your French online
Written by Kate Devine, Roxanne Matiz, Molly Wilkinson and Alexandra Rozhkova for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.