The coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Within one month it had become a global health emergency and had quickly spread throughout the world. The United States reported its first death in February 2020; by March the U.S. was leading the world in the number of cases. From that point, the coronavirus pandemic began to affect nearly everyone’s life. Due to denial of the scientific evidence by many government leaders from the president on down, poor planning by federal and state officials, and an unwillingness to commit the necessary resources to address the problem, more than 26 million Americans had been infected and over 450,000 had died by February 2021. Although America has only 4% of the world’s population, it has had 20% of the deaths.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 added new words and phrases to the lexicon: social distancing, shelter-in-place, hybrid classrooms, community spread, asymptomatic, droplet and aerosol transmission, super-spreader event, flattening the curve, N95 mask, quarantine, working from home, Zoom meeting, PPE, and ventilator are some examples.
Wearing masks became the standard, best protection both for the wearer and for those around them while we all waited for the development and administration of vaccines which were finally approved in December 2020. For some, the mask was a reminder that acute illness or even death was ever-present. For others, refusing to wear a mask reflected their denial of the seriousness of the pandemic. Some used their masks to make political or fashion statements.
For the past 11 months I have photographed people in their masks at work, play, in their homes, offices, or on the street. With these portraits it is my intention to document some of the ways in which we all tried to continue with our lives in the face of this 100-year plague.