When Saam Gabbay’s birthday landed amid the coronavirus pandemic last month, the Los Angeles-based photographer decided to turn a missed opportunity into an intimate celebration. Unable to celebrate with his guests at a birthday party, Gabbay decided to visit his friends and family at their homes throughout Los Angeles and photograph them through their window as they sheltered in place.
“Uncertainty created a shared vulnerability and heightened sense of daily gratitude,” Gabbay said. “I canceled a planned gathering and decided to see my friends and family at their homes. Not that I could go near them. Instead, I photographed them from outside, looking in. I mapped out a route from Venice to Pasadena and asked to meet at their windows at a set time.
“I’m Iranian born, and Iranian culture is one of deep attunement. When one is socialized to say ‘yes,’ one must constantly scan micro-expressions for whether a ‘yes’ is really a ‘no.’ Similar to jazz musicians who listen for micro-cues, when I shoot, I aim to create that same sense of connection and attunement that I experience culturally and when I play music.”
The result is a series of portraits documenting a “touchless” but intimate birthday celebration during an extraordinary time in history.