The virus has not been kind to our elders. Not with people bantering about “survival of the fittest,” or the aged and infirm as the ante for herd immunity. People who concern themselves with photography and ethics are always looking out for stereotypes—but I fear that for seniors, COVID-19 has been damaging visually as well as mortally.
Sadly, nursing homes have become COVID-19’s Ground Zero. According to the Kaiser Foundation, nursing homes account for more than half of the deaths in 14 states. Residents or workers account for a third of all U.S. coronavirus fatalities. Of course, age was not trending well before. Not in an era obsessed with youth and beauty, entertainment, and personality.
As much as lockdown photos emphasize looking out the window, the aged have become the people trapped behind the glass. Two kinds of photos seem to predominate. There are generic photos like this one, reflecting the nursing home as COVID-19’s Ground Zero. And there are the yearning ones depicting seniors on the inside and family members, especially children, outside the pane.
The cinematic quality here doesn’t help, the residents subordinated to the background and so neatly glassed off the soldiers could be walking past a different photograph. The march and the oddity of the paratroopers further ostracize the residents. You would think they were there for a more dramatic purpose than cleaning the place. Like maybe a hostage rescue.⠀
Photo: Carlos Spottorno/Panos Pictures Caption: Residents in a nursing home sit together in a common room as members of the NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) company of the paratrooper brigade arrive to carry out decontamination tasks at the facility. Alcala de Henares, Spain, 2020.