PHOTOGRAPH BY GABRIELE GALIMBERTI, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY GABRIELE GALIMBERTI, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

How do you photograph a nation under lockdown?

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What would you do, stuck in a strange city under lockdown in an unprecedented nationwide fight against the coronavirus?

If you are Gabriele Galimberti, you start documenting how the quarantine has changed the people of the northern Italian city of Milan. That included, the 42-year-old photographer told me, witnessing a fistfight in a supermarket when one man inadvertently brushed past another.

“One screamed: Don’t touch me!!! You don’t even have your mask!!! Go away!” Galimberti wrote in an email. The fight ended only when police and an ambulance arrived.

Galimberti, after washing his hands frequently and using copious amounts of hand sanitizer, has taken striking images of a man with a mask praying inside one church (above) and of a lonely protester demonstrating outside another.

Galimberti, a Tuscan native, acknowledges that at first, he, like many Italians, didn’t take the virus seriously, continuing to socialize. Not now, though, with the number of cases in Italy rising sharply past 15,000 and the number of deaths past 1,000. People who he wants to photograph won't let him in their homes. Outside, people tell him to stay six feet away for fear of catching the virus, prompting him today to discontinue his daily work.

“I am starting to feel scared for my friends, family, everybody, and myself,” he says. His sister has had contact with someone who may have COVID-19, he says. They are awaiting the results of the test.

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So what spurred him, as well as photographers in Rome or Venice's normally bustling St. Mark's Square (above), to record these images?

“I feel like I have to tell stories,” Galimberti tells me. “I feel like people around the world have to know what is happening here and act in advance against the virus.”

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