These globe-trotting photographers rediscover their own backyards

Their pictures capture life under lockdown: vibrant, surreal, and just outside their doors.

Ghent, Belgium

"The kids of my neighbors are doing well at social distancing," says photographer Bieke DePoorter. "It's great to hear them play over the fences."
Photograph by Bieke Depoorter, Magnum Photos

With the COVID-19 pandemic reducing the world to our homes and a few essential stores, the people and places close by—our neighbors and neighborhoods—take on greater significance. We really see them now, when before we might have rushed by on our way to work, gaze focused inward on the next place to go, the next thing to do. Now we have time to notice the people walking toward us, if only to move six feet out of their way, nodding in solidarity. We observe the changes in our neighborhoods—shuttered stores, empty streets, spring-crazed birds—because there’s nowhere else to go and not much else to look at. (Psychologists are watching how we adjust to the isolation.)

This heightened awareness is especially true for photographers used to leaving their homes behind to work all over the world. Now they are turning their eyes to the places and people around them. In Normandy, France, a photographer spots one neighbor helping another, while in Paris another spies friends sharing a physically distant drink. In New York City, one photographer mourns the local butcher, while in Dallas another admires his neighbor’s backyard gym. In Istanbul and Delhi, photographers find reason to celebrate when they observe their neighbors outside on balconies and rooftops for the first time.

How does our view of neighbors and neighborhoods change when they’re the only people and places we can see? National Geographic and Magnum Photos photographers bring you a global look at how coronavirus is affecting the worlds they see inside—and just outside—their windows.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has resulted in most Magnum photographers being restricted in their movements. As part of a broader photographer-led response, a new series “Diary of a Pandemic” will present selections of new work, while "Quarantine Conversations," will present Magnum photographers in frank and unedited dialogues about work, current affairs, and everything in-between. Follow Magnum Photos on Instagram.

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