Making a Way to Create: Photography During Coronavirus
Outside my window, as I’m typing this, is the same towering oak tree and beneath it are the same constantly-stopping-and-going squirrels continuing their daily routine of finding acorns and burying them. The normalcy of life is visually evident and that makes everything going on in the world, regarding the coronavirus, a stark contrast to our every day. In a tremendously short span of time, people have lost jobs while others have been thrust onto the front lines of this pandemic battle; it’s been dizzying to say the absolute least.
Thoughts of Meg, friends, family, making ends meet and staying healthy are all at the top of my priorities. Photography has been among my thoughts too, of course, because it’s not just a hobby for me but also a way to process the world and to create. Many people have been quarantined and this has shifted how we create. Despite the quarantine, there have been some incredible photographers who’ve made pictures in their dwellings and posted them to Instagram. Thomas Prior is one such example; an unbelievably talented photographer who continuously makes compelling, beautiful photos. There have also been photographers, such as Dan Tom, who’ve used the time to post archived photos. If you want to be creative with pictures or anything for that matter, you can do it. It’s a perfect time to use your time—whatever time you can make— and grow as a person, creative and/or photographer.
With the world paying attention to COVID-19, it’s important to me to document it. Northern Michigan is tucked away—it’s full of natural beauty and because of where it’s located, is more of a destination than a stopover to somewhere—and it’s where I’m based so my goal has been to localize the coronavirus with pictures. The stakes are different now though and carelessness isn’t an option; before I leave the house I repeat to myself the importance of not touching anything, especially my face, and keeping the proper six-foot social distance from others. After my personal safety talk, I try to have a loose plan of what to photograph while always remaining flexible to visual opportunities that present themselves.
There are people working in many capacities and occupations right now who continue to do so despite the current environment. Grocery store employees are one segment of workers who not only come into contact with many people, but their role in us obtaining food is vital, especially now. A local grocery store chain was my first stop so I walked in and asked to speak to a manager about my project idea. My objective was to simply have at least one employee stocking any type of food. The main point of my pitch to the grocery store management was that I was focusing on the value of grocery store employees during the pandemic. Pro Tip: As I’ve said before, it’s imperative to be truthful in your approach. I often photograph without assignments so I usually don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m on assignment for… .” Therefore, I find a straightforward, honest approach is the way to go. Access was granted, as long as I was received permission from my subject(s), so all was good. The first person I asked was not comfortable about being photographed so I said, “No problem, thank you.” The second person I asked, Jeremy, was more than cooperative so I went to work and captured an image of him stocking shelves that I was pleased with.
Next, there’s a marquee above a movie theater downtown that acknowledges safety tips so I went there and waited for a person to walk by in order to include a human element. When time allows, I try to include a person in order to add visual interest to pictures. There was a biting wind traveling through downtown—the kind that makes you question whether your windproof jacket is really windproof—and there weren’t many people walking around but eventually, in the distance, there was a man walking in my direction. This is another bonus because I’d much rather have the front of someone than the back of someone, I think it looks better. Plus, the James Bond poster couldn’t have had a more appropriate title or be placed in a more perfect spot.
Finally, since so many businesses were closed, I wanted to capture some of the ‘closed’ signs on store doors. I wanted to make sure the photos I made were of signs that specified coronavirus or COVID-19 or something interesting and unique, so that it’d be recognizable and unique compared to just a store being closed at any other point for any other reason. There was one sign that had written, “We will all get through this,” which is ideal, photographically, because that’s a dramatic closing sign. The next store had “coronavirus pandemic” on it which is also the specificity I was looking for.
It’s impossible for me to close this post without thanking anyone out there who’s currently working to make the world a better place, in any way possible. Also, if life is challenging for you as it is for many of us, my heart goes out to you and perhaps find peace in that every one of us, around the world, are in this together.
It always makes me proud to love the world somehow- hate’s so easy compared.Jack Kerouac