This image is part of a series that was made after New York City went into lockdown to minimize the spread of COVID-19 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 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.
As a photographer, this critical moment in our nation’s history was both compelling and challenging. I generally subscribe to an “up close and personal” approach to photography. The pandemic 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. 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.
The images are one person’s diary of a moment in our nation’s history like no other during my lifetime. They remain, at least for now, a work in progress.
Times Square 4/12/20.
“Jean Ross is a California-born photographer currently based in Brooklyn, NY. She photographs places and the people who live in them.”
Archival inkjet print
18 inches x12 inches matted and framed to 18 inches x 24 inches available in store. Additional unframed 18x12 prints are available for $300 from the artist.
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