Life in the Time of Covid
These images are part of a larger project that began when New York City went into lockdown to minimize the spread of the Corona virus on March 16, 2020. I didn’t set out to document the crisis so much as to understand it. To understand how the very things I held most dear about my adopted home - the energy of a crowd, galleries, art house cinema, and, yes, the subway - had become the City’s greatest threats. Once the lockdown began and the hum of the city turned to an eerie silence, I began to walk and bicycle from my home in Brooklyn. At times, I sought a breath of fresh air or a sign of spring that signaled that the virus, like the winter, too would pass. On other days, I set out to find the source of the sirens that had become a 24-hour a day soundtrack to an empty city. I watched as a “new normal” emerged and empty streets gave way to masked crowds as winter turned to spring.
Jean Ross is a California-born photographer currently based in Brooklyn, NY. She photographs places and the people who live in them. She has studied at the International Center of Photography. Her work has been featured in solo shows at Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento, California and Gallery 1855 in Davis, California and in group shows at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo in Oaxaca, Mexico; Noyes Arts Garage at Stockton University in Atlantic City, New Jersey; and other galleries.
As a photographer, the pandemic was both compelling and challenging. I generally subscribe to an “up close and personal” approach to photography. The virus called for greater distance out of concern for my own health, as well as a respect for those around me. The tension between too much and too little distance became more acute as New Yorkers filled the streets in protest after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. I felt at once the urgency of peaceful solidarity and a dread of the virus’ hidden threat. I chose to err on the side of maintaining distance, neither wholly safe nor satisfactory for capturing the raw emotion of the crowd. These images are one person’s diary of a moment in our nation’s history like no other during my life. They remain, at least for now, a work in progress.