COVID Through The Looking Glass

Written by Amanda Brooks

Ana Leonard poses in front of her “Looking Glass” exhibit. Photo by Amanda Brooks

Ana Leonard, small in stature with a shaved head, is a student, artist, and documentary photographer. Creating art centered around togetherness and gathering became difficult among a pandemic causing division and loneliness. Leonard began to experience this difficulty when it came time for her Senior Thesis Exhibition at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Leonard’s exhibit, “Looking Glass,” is a series of photographs of individuals through windows that explores people’s connection in isolation. 

“It started as kind of a way for me to continue being creative and include people in my photographs even through COVID,” says Leonard. 

Leonard’s exhibit, which was on view at the Institute for Contemporary Art from April 6th-16th, was the result of coming out of a creative rut. For Leonard, the creative spirit seemed to be one of many casualties due to COVID-19 during March of 2020. 

“My photos went from being extremely dense, usually like crowd shots of people and these really dynamic photos with bodies everywhere, to being less and less people like I would take a photo of my roommate on my back porch reading her book” explains Leonard. 

Still photographs of Leonard’s art. Photo by Amanda Brooks.

Her inspiration was slowly fading with each passing day of quarantine. In order to continue making art, Leonard knew she had to shift her perspective. Through Leonard’s desire to create art, she yearned to find a way to keep photographing people.With her professor’s advice of “always carry your camera” on her mind, she began to search for more. She says her window idea came from a place of needing to create. 

Leonard’s pieces pull the viewer into the subject’s lives and homes. Ana explains the intentionality behind her pieces and gives each viewer the opportunity to become a part of her exhibit. 

“My work is centered on lived experience and the world around me. Because of this, it has shifted between contrasting themes of proximity, physicality, intimacy, and body language to current relevant themes of distance and isolation,” Leonard says in her exhibit explanation. 

“Looking Glass” is an experience for artist, subject, and viewer alike. Leonard poured heart and soul into her piece and offered a piece of herself and her creative experience within it. Through her art, Leonard created a sense of community through isolation and gave a sense of hope during a particularly difficult time. 

Ana Leonard and Amanda Brooks discuss art in isolation. Audio by Amanda Brooks.

Meet The Storyteller

Amanda Brooks is a senior at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and acts as the Assistant Editor for Rising Rock. She has a background in marketing and is a writer, photographer, and proficient public speaker. Amanda is passionate about storytelling and utilizes her minor in Theatre to bring stories to life. To view more of her work or contact her, visit

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