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“That March 7, when my wife Mariella, an Italian national, travelled to Milan to see her father, who had been fighting leukaemia for more than a year, seemed like just any other day. But no. It turned out to be the first day in what ended up being one of the most difficult times of our lives. While our six year-old daughter, Sophie, and I stayed here in Barcelona where we currently reside, Mariella landed in Milan, where her family informed her that her father, Pasquale, had been hospitalized due to a high fever. This is something quite normal for his condition, but sadly, it turned out to be the coronavirus. After two very uncertain days, he passed away. Unfortunately, because of his condition and the whole COVID-19 crisis, Mariella and her family were unable to be with him during his last moments; and due to the restrictions in the northern part of Italy – which started also a few hours after she landed –, the family hasn't yet had the chance to pay their respects and give him a proper farewell with a formal funeral. At this point, who knows when that can happen?

In the meantime, Sophie and I couldn't go and be with them, which in a normal situation would have been the right thing to do – but it was too risky. With the exception of my wife who hadn’t been in direct contact with her father, they had all been exposed to the coronavirus to some extent. At this point, we were not only unable to grieve all together as a family, we also didn't know how and when mamma was going to come back home. Even though being here might seem like the easiest part in this whole nightmare, for me it has become the most challenging time of my life.

I needed to support my daughter who, by the way, is extremely attached to her mamma, and who, like any other kid, is just looking for simple concrete answers. In the following days, Italy shut down the whole country, and flights between Italy and Spain were cancelled until further notice. Then, adding insult to injury, Mariella's mother, Pina, who was already going through the painful grieving process after losing her long-time partner and husband of 50 years, started to show symptoms of what might be COVID-19. However, sending her to hospital, the only place where she could be tested, was like a death sentence; rather like what had happened so sadly to her husband. Now there were more questions than ever: when is Mariella coming back; is her mother going to be okay; will Mariella be okay? ..."

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"On the other side of the Mediterranean, Spain shut down: Sophie is out of school, so the things we had to keep life “normal” for her, like going to school or just seeing friends, were out of the picture. We are a multi-cultural family. I was born in Argentina, lived in Los Angeles – where Sophie was born – for around 20 years, and now we are based in Barcelona; so we don’t really have the family support here that we would have had in LA, Buenos Aires, Naples or Milan. I needed to be strong for Sophie, for Mariella, for myself! I needed to support myself, and what better thing to keep me sane and on track than my camera? So that’s what I've done!

I've treated this like the most challenging assignment of my life; not for a client, but for us, the family – a personal project collecting together all these strange yet amazing moments. To my surprise, Sophie and I have built the strongest bond I've could ever have imagined. I’ve got to known her so well: her amazing way of being, her strength and maturity – everything!"
"Constantly shooting both photos and video, has helped so much: we have fun, we immortalize moments, and then we look at them at the end of each day. It has helped pass the time. Sophie even grabs her Polaroid and snaps some shots for her own album. Family-wise, the situation is getting a bit closer to normality: Mariella’s mom got better, so Mariella was able to hop on a ship from Genoa to Barcelona, arriving her Sunday March 29, after 22 days away. However, we are not together yet. Because Mariella was exposed to COVID-19, she’s doing the responsible thing by going into two-week quarantine in a flat lent to her by some good friends. So we have 14 more days to go. Actually, 11 now! Or, as Sophie would do, checked √."
"Meanwhile we continue documenting, keeping the faith, building and even stronger bond, and giving Sophie what I like to call a Life is Beautiful world; kind of like Guido (Roberto Benigni) did for his son Giosuè in the wonderful Italian film La Vita e Bella. Sophie just doesn’t need all the uncertainties this whole situation has brought us. She just needs to be a kid, to know that she’s our beloved daughter, and, even with the distance, that she’s got the most amazing mamma ever, plus a whole family who love her unconditionally.”

Text and all images on this page © Rafa Lanus
Equipment: Leica M (Type 240) with Summilux-M 35 f/1.4 Asph and Tri-Elmar-M 28-35-50 f/4 Asph, Leica V-Lux-5

Rafa Lanus

Rafa Lanus is a 43 year-old photographer, who was born and raised in Buenos Aires. After living in Los Angeles for 18 years, he is currently based in Barcelona. He has been working as a photographer for over 20 years, doing all of kinds editorial assignments. The ones he enjoys most are those for NGOs and Aid organizations.

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