A couple of years ago, I was going through a personal crisis and decided to move to a new country. That’s how I ended up in Portugal. I settled in a rented apartment on the outskirts of Lisbon and started observing my surroundings: the locals, their customs, their way of life.
One morning, I noticed a young woman smoking on a balcony of the apartment block across from mine. She caught my eye so much that I picked up my telephoto lens to get a better view: she was smoking cigarettes, one after the other. The puffs of smoke and her mess of curly hair gave me an indication of her emotional state. From that point onwards, I decided to keep observing her.
I wondered whether it was possible to learn something about a person through one-sided visual contact alone, forgoing any verbal exchanges.
Soon, we settled into a pattern. Her daily routine wasn’t difficult to discern: she woke up at the same hour every day for six months. For six months, we woke up together but in different apartments. We both went out on our respective balconies practically simultaneously: to have our morning smoke, watch the morning light, and think about the good and bad in life.
Pretty soon, I realized that my new acquaintance didn’t live alone. She shared the flat with a friend, a woman about ten years older than her. They often went out for a smoke together. I kept observing them, their life, and their dogs.
Then, something changed. A new addition disturbed our settled way of life: a man appeared, wearing a pink robe. I started to see him frequently. Once we met each other in a grocery store, and I almost said hello…
After a few weeks, I saw the young woman alone on the balcony again. She was smoking, but her body language and her expressions hinted to something distant, like she wasn’t really here anymore. After that, she was gone. I never saw her again.
When she disappeared from my life, I realized that what I was watching all this time was, figuratively speaking, my own reflection. The young woman reflected back my problems, concerns, and fears. For the six months that I watched her from my balcony, I photographed an alternative version of my own reality.
Our lives went on in parallel, but perhaps, in some alternative universe, those parallels were actually the same. This other point of view helped me reinterpret my own life and find solutions to my problems, which eventually resolved my crisis. I hope that this young woman is also happy now, wherever she is. Through this series, I’d like to tell her this.
Copy and photos by Dima Kornilov.