Q & A: Emil Lombardo: An Unending Sunday Morning Stories

“During the Covid-19 lockdown, I cycled to different parts of London to photograph Trans and Non-Binary people outside of their homes. 'An Unending Sunday Morning' is a photographic documentation of our unique experiences and feelings of isolation, separation and struggle. Although this body of work focuses on the effects of the global pandemic, I am interested in how these atemporal emotions exist outside of this specific period of time. The work could resemble a collection of spontaneous encounters with individuals who gaze at the lens outside or near their homes. The large-format black and white photographs suggest a potential parallel reality, in which these portraits might or might not have been taken on a calm Sunday morning.

Between January and April 2021, I cycled 600 kilometres and photographed forty-five people. With each meeting and photograph, I also delved into their stories and our shared experiences. The process of making this series is as significant as the results – from the email exchanges, to bike rides in challenging weather conditions, to the development of the films in my kitchen. The series also acted as a coping mechanism, a space for reflection and a way of remaining optimistic despite the challenges posed by the health crisis. The project's title comes from this continuous and peculiar sense of time developed as a result of the pandemic – where each day of the week feels like a never-ending Sunday morning."

- Emil Lombardo

30: Luca

How did you go about scouting and getting into contact with everyone you photographed for this series?

I use social media to find my models. I think the only reason I keep my Facebook account is because of the groups. I'm part of a few Trans and Non-Binary groups on Facebook as I find them very useful to connect with my community. I usually post on those groups or on my Instagram to find models. I didn't do castings or selections, I photographed everyone interested in being part as long as they were based on my cycling radius (maximum 1 hour distance from my flat in London).

23: Victoria

You mention how the slower process of shooting with a large format camera allowed you to establish a connection with your models, do you think this would have been possible to the same extent with digital or a smaller film format?

I don't think so! In my experience, I cannot work with a digital camera. The instantaneity and disposability of a digital camera kills the process for me. Sometimes I shoot medium format but not for this kind of documentary project, and I stopped shooting on 35mm because I find it very dull.

There is something magical and potent about working with a large-format camera, maybe because of the technicality of the medium. There are so many difficulties and constraints when working with a large-format camera, and that is exactly why it is amazing.

26: Jo

It takes time to set up, to focus, to create the right atmosphere and scene. The film is so expensive that you cannot just waste it. You have to be hyper-aware of what you are doing. This awareness and concentration creates a sacred environment that translates into the final result.

Also, I will never get tired of seeing peoples reactions when they see the camera. I love that moment when the model sees the camera and is all excited and goes:  "Oh wow! You are going to take my portrait with that camera?!" That creates a condition and preparation from their side as well, which also helps make a great picture.

13: Kai

All your subjects appear very naturalistic in the photos, how were you able to capture them in such candid natural poses?

I seriously don't think I do anything in particular. I usually talk with my models during the whole process. But I’m not particularly eager to give too many directions, I see my shoots as a collaboration, and I like to see and hear what they have to say. I would maybe choose a spot and ask them to stand there, but that is the most I would do.

40: Lori-Mae

Did you ask your subjects to dress or style themselves in any specific ways?

At the beginning of the project, I told people to wear their usual lockdown outfits. But very soon after the first shoots, I stopped saying that, and I asked them to wear whatever they wish.

When we are part of a marginalised community, we already have too many entities telling us what we should or should not do with our appearance, so I don't want my photography to add extra control over people's bodies.

19: Danni

Had you originally planned to document 45 people or did the project grow as you worked on it?

I didn't have a target number of people in mind, the target I had was just in terms of time. I started this series at the beginning of the winter lockdown, and I decided to stop it on April 12th because it was an important day where the government chose to lift many restrictions.

20: June

What do you hope those that come across your series will take away from it?

I hope people will see how beautiful, strong, kind and powerful trans people are.

25: Alon

Do you plan to continue the project or has it inspired any future bodies of work?

I'm self-publishing a limited edition book with the series that I will present on the 14th of July at Cromwell Place for my final degree show. I will also show the series in some online shows and festivals like Paris Photo as part of the Carte Blanche award.

I am also working on preparing my next series, which will be more significant as I intend to work on this new project for more than a year. It will also be about Trans and Non-Binary experiences but on a different topic.

You can see more of Emil's work on his website or Instagram.

The End.