William DeSena Lives HERE Now
Artist William DeSena left Brooklyn six months ago, bound for LA for a few days to work on a documentary project about his friend Meb, a former Olympic athlete who emigrated to the US from Eritrea. He’s been here ever since, living and working in his room at LINE LA since October and surfing the wave of a creative life in an upside-down world. He was gifted the Nintendo 64 and picked up a set of Mexican Star Wars encyclopedias somewhere along the way. Below, William ruminates on isolation, creativity and what it’s like to live and work far away from home.
I don’t remember the last time I’ve been alone for this long. I don’t think I actually ever have. It’s been two months now. I spend 90 percent of the day and night in the room. Of course I go down and grab coffee, but I’m just straight back up here I eat, sleep, drink, meditate, work, write emails. Everything in this room. And even though it’s not full lockdown isolation – you know, it’s not like I went into a cabin in Alaska and locked the door – it’s definitely is affecting me; actually, it’s a positive thing. It’s become pretty meditative. Living as a vagabond out of one tiny suitcase, you start to realize how much you don’t need in life.
It (the pandemic) did make me stop for a minute. I was going a million miles and hour before. What have I done past five years? Where am I? Is this what I want to be doing? It was nice to have something kind of existentially earth-shattering. I have been needing, of course, to just take walks with my camera. I put in my Air Pods, listen to music and then just walk and look for little moments in the way that the light works and just seeing different people. The nice thing about Koreatown is you have these buildings and all these windows with reflective glass to shoot. It’s best between like 10 am and 3 pm when you find these pockets of light that are really, really beautiful in the street. It’s also just nice to find a pocket of sun where there’s a bench and sit there and just people-watch, something that’s really entertaining for New Yorkers.
I built my photography off the idea of design. The world is already designed, it’s beautifully designed. How do you play Tetris with what the world has given to you in the light and the subject and the moment? I am not necessarily looking for some sort of conscious approach to capturing this person’s life story. You’re never going to be able to capture someone’s soul. I think we’re just here to observe these little moments that people can relate to because everyone’s felt (hopefully) every emotion.
What’s cool about photography is it might show you a little tiny window into something. But everything’s changing all the time.