April 25, 2022

Pandemic Photo Essay

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

If you look through the pictures on your phone, what do they reveal about your experiences during the pandemic? What memories stand out in your pictures? So much has happened in our lives and in society in the past few years. Looking through my pictures helps me process some of what we’ve been through.

I took this first picture on March 17, 2020, at a stop to the liquor store. This sign reminds me that we didn’t know exactly what we were in for, and it was early enough in the pandemic that we could make light of suddenly hard to obtain items such as toilet paper.

Picture1

The next picture was taken in late March 2020. I was hoping to shoot hoops to get exercise, but this was an indicator that we wouldn’t be able to do normal activities and would be deterred from congregating in public.

Picture2

On April 1, 2020, at a nature preserve in Buffalo, a bird flew into the hand of my son, who attracted the bird with seed. We were already in the habit of taking family walks prior to the pandemic, but our hikes and strolls significantly increased in the spring of 2020.

Picture3

In late April of 2020, movie theaters were closed, and already we had a sign of quarantine fatigue.

Picture4

The next picture is my then 9-year-old’s take on pandemic life for a school assignment.

Picture5

A sunset in Erie, Pennsylvania, after a day at the beach, in late July 2020. We spent the day at Presque Isle, a place we visit once a year to soak up the sun. A good day at the beach gave us a temporary feeling of normalcy.

Picture6

I saw this sign posted in Buffalo in January 2021. Economic hardship has been a feature of the pandemic. It reminds me of the title of an article by sociologist Matthew Desmond: “The Rent Eats First, Even During a Pandemic.”

Picture7

This was my work from home space. With no home office, the best place to set up a desk with good lighting was our bedroom. I worked from home in academic year 2020-2021. For most of the school year, my kids were across the hall in their bedrooms attending school remotely. I took this picture in May 2021. I taught my classes using Google Meet. At that point in the academic year, most students were attending without their cameras on. I understood there were many reasons students might not want to have their cameras on. My students handled the transition to remote classes well. Still, it was difficult to build classroom chemistry through the screen. In the present academic year, I’ve taught both of our semesters in person. It felt good to return to a traditional classroom, though masks provided a challenge of a different sort. When faces are covered, it makes it harder to discern what students are thinking and how they’re reacting to what’s being discussed. You miss their smiles. It’s difficult to hear each other, and some of us experience what I call “sweaty mask face.”

Picture8

The next picture was taken in late May 2021, during a visit with my family to Pittsburgh. Walking through the city, we came across this mural. This was one year after the murder of George Floyd. For analysis of the protests that took place in summer of 2020, I recommend this article by sociologist Dana Fisher.

Picture9

I took this picture at a grocery store parking lot in September 2021. To understate the matter, this person is no fan of President Biden nor Dr. Fauci. At the beginning of the pandemic, sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote: “It’s an open question whether Americans have enough social solidarity to stave off the worst possibilities of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s ample reason to be skeptical. We’re politically divided, socially fragmented, skeptical of one another’s basic facts and news sources.” His skepticism was warranted.

Picture10

A few days before Thanksgiving 2021, I spent an afternoon hanging out at a restaurant patio with my brother and two of our friends. This day meant a lot to me because it was the first time I’d seen my friend Ron in almost two years. I had last spent time with him in January 2020 in New York City, where he lives, when the word “Coronavirus” was not yet in my vocabulary.

Picture11

I couldn’t believe how many people stopped to chat with us on their way in and out of the restaurant. People were fascinated by this dog, who belongs to my other friend with us that day. Countless people expressed how much they liked the dog and made small talk with us. This reminds me, as Peter Kaufman once wrote about, that dogs help humans be more social to each other, and there’s a lot we can learn from dogs!

Picture12

The last picture was taken the Sunday before Christmas 2021, when I enjoyed a day with my family at a Buffalo Bills game. As I wrote in a previous post, going to games with friends and family gave me a distraction from thinking and worrying about the pandemic. It’s fitting that my final picture is of my family. I’m thankful that we have each other to lean on through good times and bad. I think a lot about how we’ll look back, and remember, this time in our lives together.

Photos courtesy of the author

Comments

Everything has changed since the pandemic strikes to the people all over the world. I know how hard the life is when the pandemic came, but this pandemic teach us that our family and our lives are more important than any materials things in this world.

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