What do photographers do when they are grounded?
By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
For years, they’ve flown, sailed, and driven to the world’s hotspots.
This time, the biggest story in years, and some of the world’s top photographers were grounded.
Then the story came their way.
However, they are—like many of us—stuck in their homes for the most part, hoping to wait out a pandemic safely, and passing the time helping neighbors or reflecting upon their suddenly slow-paced lives. “I am somewhat enjoying the downtime at home with my daughter,” says Rena Effendi, in her Istanbul place (above) after traveling to about 20 countries in the past year.
Downtime? They’re not not exactly sitting it out. Some of them are thinking more deeply about the images they are making close to home. Here are a few vignettes from a story gathered by photo editor Maura Friedman:
"On the first morning of self-quarantine, an unexpected blossom of light appeared on the wall in my partner’s apartment near Gothenburg, Sweden,” says photographer Acacia Johnson (above). "Since starting our self-quarantine, I've found myself making photographs in the way that I did when I first picked up a camera as a teenager—searching for quiet magic in the everyday. In this time of uncertainty, it’s comforting to recognize the beauty in the small details all around us."
"Here in the south of Bahia [Brazil] there is no structure for this crisis. People continue to live their normal lives, going to the beach, respecting the distance sometimes,” says photographer Luisa Dörr. "[Bahians] are a very tough people, raised in the forest, working their whole lives under harsh conditions. They say that a virus is not how they die. Also they are very religious, and most of them strongly believe that God will protect them."
"Yesterday, my 82-year-old neighbor, Barbara, asked me to help set up a Zoom call on her iPad for her pilates class. She has been taking these classes with the same instructor for over three decades," said photographer Ismail Ferdous.
"With uncertainty comes a deeper awareness, not only for the shifting parabolic curves of this pandemic, but for the minutiae of daily life,” says Kenya-based photographer Nichole Sobecki.
“The neighborhood hawks, the warmth of the ground beneath us, quiet moments together. I’ve spent much of the past decade watching as hotels and airports and rushed meals blurred into one line of continuous motion. Now, with all travel delayed, time stretches out. I worry about what things will look like in my adopted home of Kenya—vibrant, yet vastly unequal—when the full force of this storm hits.”
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Solo: A woman rides an empty train from Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport on day three of the order to stay at home. Photographer William Daniels made this image as part of a series of dispatches by Nat Geo photographers worldwide on the effects of COVID-19.
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Today in a minute
Saving wallabies: When we last talked to photographer Matthew Abbott, he had taken an iconic photograph of a panicked kangaroo hopping past one of Australia’s many bushfires; now, the Australian photographer has covered an emergency operation air-dropping carrots and sweet potatoes to feed brush-tailed rock wallabies whose charred habitat has been stripped of their normal food. The effort is helping, the New York Times reports.
R.I.P. Maurice Berger: This historian, critic, and curator of photography died in his home on Sunday, the New York Times reported. “This is a stunning loss,” tweeted historian John Edwin Mason, who credited Berger as “one of the people who did the most to broaden the field and argue for the centrality of the African American experience in American culture.” Berger was 63.
In his own words: Here’s Maurice Berger, writing for Nat Geo last year, on visual artist Omar Victor Diop: “By recasting history and posing as its subjects, Diop makes the past come alive in the present. He focuses on our collective humanity, affirming the debt we owe to the efforts of our ancestors ... In the end, [Diop] celebrates the power of black resistance, in its many forms, to change the world."
The big takeaway
Away from people, back toward home: Photographer Pete McBride thought he was headed to the land of Shackleton and solitude. Working as a guest speaker on a National Geographic Explorer journey to the deep South Atlantic (above) toward Antarctica, McBride lost himself among passengers and 200,000-some penguins. “When the world screeched to a halt, I didn’t notice,” McBride wrote about his complicated way back, one step ahead of a collapsing world travel infrastructure. Here’s his report, and his photograph of an eerily emptied Chicago O’Hare International Airport (below) as the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders took hold.
Photo tip of the week
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One last glimpse
Not this year: The cancellation of this year’s Olympics in Tokyo because of COVID-19 was the first time anything but a world war had stopped this international gathering. That said, boycotts have abounded ever since the modern games began in 1896 in Greece (above), Nat Geo’s Amy McKeever writes. Photographer Alexander Wilbourne Weddell took this image for Nat Geo in 1922.
Subscriber exclusive: What you need to know about the 'original' Olympics