April 29, 2020

The Coronavirus in Retrospect

The Coronavirus in Retrospect

One thing we realize about the pandemic, now that we’ve lived it more in months than in days, is that it has phases. It’s near-impossible to tell or trust what comes next while experiencing it. (You saw that video of Italians warning us about the sickness coming because we were in the same boat, but just ten days behind?) Still, the pictures, looking back, make the progression seem so cut-and-dried.⠀

Chris McGrath’s photo was taken in Turkey on April 1st. The background is like so many still and artful photos from “that point in the curve.” The focus is on the suddenly abandoned streets and the evaporation of public life. In the foreground, however, the speed and purpose of the woman also captures the horror on the way. Her flying hair not only transmits the escalating fear and urgency, it practically bridges time the way one strand (like electrical wire?) almost “touches” the background figure. ⠀

As the catastrophe of the coronavirus turns into history, distinct phases do start to crystallize: the time of shut down; the time of curiosity, and then pensive isolation; the time of sickness and triage; the time of death and mourning; the time of halting return. But there are far fewer pictures like Chris’s, that capture the continuous tension in and with the air, and the way we’ve been flying by night throughout.

-Michael Shaw

Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Caption: A woman wearing a face mask walks down an empty shopping street in the usually busy Eminonu district on April 01, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey has confirmed 168 deaths and 11,535 positive cases of the coronavirus, officials continue to implement steps to contain the spread of the virus with the Interior Ministry announcing measures including a ban on all intercity bus travel, all Internationals flights have been stopped and recreational activities such as fishing, jogging and barbecuing have been suspended in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. ⠀

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Michael Shaw
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