Whitehot Magazine

A photographer and a model found themselves stuck together in their small New York apartment with not much but a Polaroid camera, a 35mm camera and film.

Photograph from BALL&CHAIN by Yana Toyber and Vaughan Ollier.



In mid-March of 2020, NYC shut down everything except “essential” businesses. Yana Toyber and Vaughan Ollier (a photographer and a model), found themselves stuck together in their small Chelsea apartment with not much but a Polaroid camera, a 35mm camera and film. Exploring the empty streets, the city became a playground - wandering, navigating and desiring. Each picture provides an intimate view into their lockdown world and embracing creativity within the turmoil.

Photograph from BALL&CHAIN by Yana Toyber and Vaughan Ollier.

YANA TOYBER: The first few weeks were pretty intense. We were bombarded with information from news channels, political leaders, friends and family about a potentially deadly virus so serious the city had to shut down.  I was freaking out about my family the first two weeks making sure they wouldn’t get this frightening disease and I was overwhelmed with thoughts about basic survival needs (how will I pay rent and eat), we finally received our unemployment and then the boredom set in. In order to pass the time and keep entertained my supermodel roommate Vaughan Ollier and I started shooting polaroids of each other.  We would go on long walks and grab the polaroid camera.  We also documented our everyday inhouse activities of my experiments with Shibari and warm baths. Sadly my 16 year old cat was super sick so we had to put him down - that was the worst part for me!!  I was talking to my good friend and Publisher Mike Krim who is the founder of PAPERWORKNYC about visiting him in LA and I mentioned having all these polaroids and 35mm photos that Vaughan and I took while we were locked down.  He said he would "love to make a zine of the work"- and that’s how BALL&CHAIN was made. 

We wanted to release the zine in a special way, since it was so special to us. So we teamed up with Refuge arts who projected the zine onto the side of the building at the corner of 8th ave and 14th street and invited our friends as well as pedestrians to come see it. 

Photograph from BALL&CHAIN by Yana Toyber and Vaughan Ollier.

VAUGHAN OLLIER: When this began I was one of the people thinking the lockdown would last a month, maybe two at most… How wrong was I, ha?! Thoughts were constantly running through my mind about thinking logically and rationally about getting through this pandemic - and somehow coming out prepared for life after. I got a plan together, created a daily routine, took courses, worked out, and attempted to fill my days with busy work. What I became desperate for after the first two weeks that spanned into a month which later became two months-then three ect, was the creativity and spontaneity of regular life. Yana Toyber, a great photographer and my roommate - we started taking pictures.  She would bring the camera with us everywhere and I would immediately turn on - I became the Muse again. Slowly, I started dabbling in taking photos of her and loved finding my own perspective from the lens. No longer were we stuck in survival mode but we ourselves again… two girls, joined at the hip, enjoying an entirely private New York. We loved the city and made it our playground. Ball & Chain is a collection of random pandemic moments, you see our personalities, whimsy, boredom, and our desires...

To project Ball & Chain sky high and in the Zine is the perfect insight to our lockdown and perfect way to share a piece of us. Presenting this special project with Refuge Arts, our Zine was displayed onto the NY skyline, our labour of love and tribute to a city we love was the perfect way to celebrate our surprising fun lockdown. WM




Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


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