man singing by opened casket and man in respirator playing piano.

‘I put my camera to my face and cried.’ Documenting a COVID-19 hot spot

Photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier witnessed the strength and courage of people affected by the coronavirus—and fell ill with COVID-19 himself.

Deontaye Clay sings a gospel hymn at the funeral of Chester Lovett, who died of COVID-19 in Detroit. Kenny Alexander accompanies him while wearing a respirator.

I took some 10,000 photos during the 12 days I spent in Detroit documenting the impact that the novel coronavirus had on the city’s people. I went everywhere, as carefully as I could. City buses that workers depended on to get to and from the jobs they couldn’t afford to give up. Houses and apartments where people lived and loved despite illnesses and job losses that threatened their well-being. Funerals where family members had to take turns saying goodbye to their loved ones—no more than 10 people allowed to gather at a time.

Ten. That happens to be the number of children that Chester Lovett had. The Marine veteran and former mail carrier also had a mother, grandchildren, brothers, nieces and nephews, and countless others who loved him. Yet the 59-year-old died in a hospital without any of them by his side. That’s the way it was then.

His funeral was heart wrenching and beautiful. For me, his family’s palpable grief was made worse knowing that the virus wouldn’t have overwhelmed people of color if the United States treated its Black and brown citizens equitably. Instead, COVID-19 was sickening and killing them at disproportionate rates.

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