By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
Jim Richardson took the image one morning nearly two decades ago. It shows Bobby Begay in his element, on the Columbia River, embracing a large Chinook salmon, passionate about the fishing that has been so central to his tribe’s culture for centuries.
Jim messaged me after Bobby died of complications from COVID-19 a week ago. Bobby, the kind of guy who would sing funny lyrics to Johnny Cash songs and dive in frigid river waters to bring up eel-like lamprey, remained as focused in Jim’s memory as he was that chilly morning in 2001.
“A member of the Yakama tribe, he generously took me out fishing with him. He was a great spokesman for the tribe, a nice guy, and a champion of native fishing rights,” Jim wrote, noting that a memorial fund had been established.
That effort to help characterizes Jim for me, as well as many top photographers. Jim is the first photographer I worked with at National Geographic—he really helped me learn how to do a Nat Geo story with the commitment to research, and I think this connection to the people he photographs is a part of that, too.
Do you get this newsletter daily? If not, sign up here or forward to a friend.
Today in a minute
The human face of COVID-19: Rachelle is a nurse from West Virginia who is working with coronavirus patients in a hospital ER in Queens, New York. Rob, her boyfriend, is a welder and was visiting her. Both rode the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. Why did Rachelle come to New York to do work that is so life threatening? “I spent a year in Afghanistan with the army,” she told photographer Peter Turnley. “I just thought it was my sense of duty to come here and help out again—this time wearing a different uniform.” The image is part of what Turnley calls a “lockdown visual diary.” Peter, a veteran conflict photographer, tells us he’s taking precautions while making daily images from New York, but “it's a different calculation because the virus is invisible, there is no front line ... but it doesn't impact the importance of the work." You can see his video here and photos on his Instagram page, @peterturnley.
The hummingbird drone: How do you get close to sleeping monarch butterflies without disturbing them? Use a sturdy camouflaged drone that the butterflies won’t perceive as a threat. That, plus rising temperatures, led to this extraordinary video shown on Nature on PBS. “It's not very often that I watch a video online and react by literally gasping and audibly saying ‘wow,'" writes Usman Dawood for fstoppers.com.
We asked, you delivered: Ahead of the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, we’re asking readers for their family stories of resilience, either during the dark days of World War II or in more contemporary turbulent times. Reader Charles V. Gruner wrote of his mom, a “Rosie the Riveter” at a wartime factory making camouflage material; Anne Richardson said her mom opened and ran four child-care centers during the war; Cynthia McClelland noted a different kind of resilience from her mom during wartime: “Feeding at least a dozen people for several days on ration coupons for a family of three.” We’d love to hear your stories of resilience and see your images via email or on social media with the hashtag #StoriesofResilience.
Your Instagram photo of the day
The radio is free: Radio Men Kontre (“united hands” in Creole) is the broadcast of the Catholic Diocese of Les Cayes, in Jérémie, Haiti. Sister Melianise Gabreus's program on advice for life is one of the most followed. The city (population 50,000) has an estimated 30 radio stations. The speakers are journalists, politicians, community activists, voudou priests, students, nuns, and pastors. The broadcasting equipment is often rudimentary. Nearly 40 percent of Haitians are illiterate, and only 25 percent have regular access to electricity. That means most Haitians do not read the country’s only daily newspaper, regularly watch television, or spend hours surfing the Internet—but they can listen to the radio.
Are you one of our 135 million Instagram followers? (If not, follow us now.)
The big takeaway
A kind of a hush: We asked top photographers to illustrate how much quieter their surroundings have gotten following the pandemic. Says Luisa Dorr, who took the image above: “We live in south Bahia, Brazil, in the Atlantic Forest. There’s few people in the beach on a daily basis, even in summer holidays they appear half empty. This day that I took this picture, the feeling was completely different, it was completely desert, there are no human references anywhere in sight, I was alone. It was quiet, clean, and full of love. Not human, but natural.” Below are more images from the project.
Empty: Here’s the National Library reading hall at Poland’s Jagiellonian University, closed March 10. Photographer Rafal Milach says he appreciates the cut in traffic and people bustling about. “I try to enjoy it, but I’m afraid to get too used to it. If the world speeds up ever again,” Milach says, “the sound shift may be harsh."
Bird chirps replace traffic sounds: Mornings in Kuala Lumpur, you notice the change, says photographer Ian Teh. “Over time [the birds] have gotten louder, perhaps a sign of growing avian courage as humanity recedes behind close doors,” Teh says. “In the late afternoon, rolling thunder marks the arrival of a tropical downpour as lightning illuminates the darkened sky and all below it momentarily. Thick sheets of pelting droplets blur houses in the distance—a sight to behold. After the rain, the sweet scent of wet leaves drifts through the window, its lingering air cool against the skin. The aroma of spices permeates the air at dinnertime, a distinct contrast to once busy days."
Taxis, idled: “As a born and raised New Yorker, the quiet that we are experiencing now is something unfathomable, calming, surreal, and profoundly unsettling at the same time,” says photographer Celeste Sloman.
Even the fountains are silent: A pair of dogs take a moment to greet each other on Las Vegas Boulevard on April 23. All Las Vegas casinos have been closed since March 16—the first time this has happened in the city's history. Says photographer Daniella Zalcman: “I've spent the last six weeks sheltering in place here with my parents, who just relocated to Nevada a few months ago. I've spent very little time in this city, but my experiences have always been of extremes: opulence, lights, crowds, noise. It's strange and a little unsettling to drive along the Las Vegas Strip without seeing the usual chaos."
Photo tip of the week
Did a friend forward this to you?
On Mondays, Debra Adams Simmons covers the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.
The last glimpse
Hands: Originally published in 1971, as part of a National Geographic article entitled “Morocco: Land of the Farthest-West,” this photo shows the henna painted hands of a fortune teller on the streets of Marrakech. Sara Manco, our senior photo archivist, has admired much of Thomas J. Abercrombie’s work, often from the Middle East. The photographer “had a beautiful way of capturing the details of everyday life while out on his stories," Sara tells us.