Lili Almog explores the covered faces of women in New York as they both beckon and alert us to keep our distance in such a complicated and conflicted world, medical staff, demonstrators, graffiti and shopfronts.

For many years I have explored the challenges to women and their private choice of devotion. I continued to work in my studio, using models, fabric and plywood to emphasise the global female identity crisis created by the suppression of women and their spirit. This pandemic has infused new meaning into my subject and materials and ironically, the lockdown situation has led me back into the streets of New York, after years of working in the studio. In those early April days of this crisis, with death numbers quickly multiplying, my covered women in wooden boxes seemed to reflect issues from another lifetime. Masks and coverings now belonged exclusively to the world of medical clinicians that worked in the spaces between life and death.

For two months I met many local nurses, travel nurses, technicians and young doctors who, despite being exhausted, allowed me to photograph them during short breaks and shift changes. These dignified, humbled and haloed warriors of the battleground are the portraits of my Frontline series.

‘I wish to move beyond documentation…so that people may speak their stories to me’

By June the abandoned streets of New York city experienced additional trauma — demonstrations, riots, and looting — and the mood shifted from sadness and compassion to rawanger and violence. Within a few days storefronts were boarded up throughout the entire city. I walked the streets among masked inhabitants in a world of plywood that concealed the despair. The few luxury stores that preemptively boarded up their windows became canvases for familiar artists; those works were later tagged by graffiti artists as political acts in themselves.

My diptych presentation on brown craft wrapping paper references the debris of the demonstrations and the new color palette of my world, amongst the colourful attire of my compassionate heroes. In these Covid days I find common ground between the challenged spirituality of my veiled women and the valiant spirit of my new subjects.

Frontline explores the covered faces of these women as they both beckon and alert us to keep our distance in such a complicated and conflicted world. The portrait of a masked woman in a boarded up city has become a newmetaphor of the human condition. Art enables us to pause, take a breath, and reflect; the social implications are yet to come.

Frontline (2020), photographic series. 
©Lily Almog 

Raised in a matriarchal home, Lili Almog has built a celebrated photography career, focusing her lens primarily on women and, more recently, on the traces of human presence in America’s post-industrial landscapes. She began her career in the mid-1980s as a photojournalist, working on fashion shoots and portraiture, and documenting New York’s edgy nightlife in candid black-and-white images. By the early 1990s, she was concentrating on her own projects, which have taken her into women’s bedrooms, Carmelite nunneries in Israel and America, and rural China, where she sensitively captured women in moments of intimacy and introspection. “My intention…is to enter an extremely private space without disrupting the delicate essence of communication between subject, their experience, and the viewer” (artist bio,

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