Photo essay – watching the crown: tangible uncertainty

This article is a part of the Thesis Eleven online project: Living and Thinking Crisis

by Sian Supski (Melbourne)

This photo essay was written in the first lockdown in Melbourne, March to June 2020. We are now in the second lockdown. This time the vibe is different, and not easy to explain. The city feels more lonely. We look out our windows at the deserted streets, the empty gallery, the quiet bar and save for the construction noise next door and the passing sirens, it is eerily quiet. I am reminded of Olivia Laing’s observation in The Lonely City,

Imagine standing by a window at night, on the sixth or seventeenth or forty-third floor of a building. The city reveals itself as a set of cells, a hundred thousand windows, some darkened and some flooded with green or white or golden light. Inside, strangers swim to and fro, attending to the business of their private hours. You can see them, but you can’t reach them, and so this commonplace urban phenomenon, available in any city of the world on any night, conveys to even the most social a tremor of loneliness, its uneasy combination of separation and exposure.

We too can see the lights on in other buildings, but in this time of pandemic, separation is an everyday existence. There is no difference between night and day. The ‘tremor of loneliness’ feels more like a fracture. I can’t help thinking that our everyday city life will be inexorably changed. How do we look forward now, from this place which is also strange?

This is the second in a series of little books ‘mapping miniatures’ which I have been creating over the past year. The first, published in happier times, focused on our everyday life in Chengdu, PRC.  My thanks again to Warren Taylor’s acute design eye which helped me to get ‘watching the crown’ right, or as close to right as might seem possible in this first iteration of these strange times. 


Sian Supski is currently Research Fellow in Sociology in the Centre for Stem Cell Systems, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at The University of Melbourne. She has written two books and a number of articles and chapters in the broad area of cultural sociology. She is a Commissioning Editor of the journal, Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology. Sian was a Visiting Scholar at STIAS, Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2015 and is an Affiliate Researcher at Sichuan University, Chengdu, PRC. Email:  Twitter: @sian1953

2 thoughts on “Photo essay – watching the crown: tangible uncertainty

  1. Pingback: Charity in time of plague | thesis eleven

  2. Pingback: Update: Living and Thinking Crisis online series | thesis eleven

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