Covid 19 Pandemic - Beacon, New York Quarantine April 14 - May 15, 2020
During the time I devoted to photographing over 80 households, New York, particularly New York City, was overwhelmed with countless thousands of people being stricken with the Covid 19 virus and so many ultimately succumbing to the virus. Everything was unknown at the time - exactly how the virus spreads, how contagious, when to go to the hospital with symptoms, what were all the different symptoms, protocols for treatment, overwhelmed hospitals, shortages of protective gear and ventilators, and fears. Lots and lots of fears. The lockdown of the state became the new normal. Everyones’ lives took a sharp turn and so much had to be figured out in individual households. My neighbors scrambled to stock up on food, cleaning products, and toilet paper. People were just beginning to understand the importance of masks even though the first federal directive didn’t support their use. At this moment, I decided to embark on a photographic project of a small city in New York, where I had recently moved.
Who were these people of Beacon following the mandate to quarantine unless they were an essential worker? None, to my knowledge, had Covid 19. Their responsibility to Beacon and New York was to stay home. Limit the potential spread of the virus. I decided mine was to venture out in the safest way possible, with social distance and wearing a filtered mask at all times, to take portraits of these people and find out what they were feeling. To understand what Beacon was going through. From a GPS standpoint, as I navigated my way around town, almost everyone was within 5 minutes by car.
Ever wonder what your neighbor was experiencing during their quarantine?
This selection of portraits from the series are accompanied by the words they sent me to describe their quarantine experiences. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing the full project which encompasses over 80 households. The intent for this work is historical. These portraits are intended to reflect the millions of people sheltered at home as Covid-19 was spreading rapidly through New York.
Bianca, Ethan, Ariyana, Antonio See
Bianca: 15 years old 10th grade. I'm bored! I can't go to the stores or spend time with friends.
Antonio: 9 years old 4th grade. I feel stressed out and bored. I don't go to school and I can't play with my friends. I don't leave my house or yard.
Ariyana: 18 years old Food server/management at McDonald's in Fishkill. I get very stressed between school and work. They changed my hours making me open the store instead of the night shifts. I don't mind mornings since I get out at 12, but it's very exhausting. Customers have gotten much more rude lately and they're pretty nasty. Online school isn't really my best suit, but it is what it is. I get to spend more time with my family.
Ethan: 8 years old 2nd grade. I'm bored! I miss my school, my teachers, my friends, and cub scouts.
Sharlene Elmore Stout Music director of Spirit of Unity Church
Disappointed not to see my family or watch my grandchildren play sports, but continued to attend Bible studies and Sunday School over the phone.
Steve Mallon Photographer Sascha Mallon Artist
Steve: I fell even more in love with my wife. I’m thankful for the home we have together and how we were all able to appreciate each other and also give each other space. We are still laughing late at night together!
Sascha: I am used to being home a lot. In the beginning I used the time to make colorful childrens’ masks for underserved communities through Cope NYC, and I work remotely doing Zoom calls for art projects with oncology patients for The Creative Center NYC. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I can keep my job. I am so very thankful for my husband, my daughter, our dog and beautiful house.
Robyn Ellenbogen Artist and Zen Buddhist Priest
I moved to Beacon, N.Y. in November 2019 and by the time I settled into my new space in a wonderful community, oops, the clouds of impermanence and uncertainty blew through unsettling everything. Uncertainty and impermanence are paramount to my practice as a visual artist and Zen Buddhist priest. When things are adverse and not turning out the way you imagined, it’s likely a moment that is rich in potential for one’s growth and inner life. Being isolated has turned into a blessing as I have been able to return to my creative work and meditation. Slowing down has not hurt and has offered the space for gratitude and perhaps an alternative path. I have some hope that the heart and mind can be trained in the grounds of this pandemic.
Cabot Parsons Visual Theater Artist and Puppeteer Melanie Parsons Executive Assistant for a NYC Advertising Agency
Cabot: I’m lucky to still be teaching, remotely, acting for teens at a dance studio in Middletown. Three hours of Zoom meetings is exhausting and not fulfilling, but the kids are still engaged and that is what matters. All my spring performances of my short puppet piece in Boston and Baltimore are canceled. I rededicated my theater work to puppetry a few years ago while recuperating from several leg surgeries after our house burned. 2020 was going to be my year to become known in my field. My sleep cycle is wildly disrupted, and I am worried about our family members in Texas. I’m furious at our friends in Texas who aren’t taking this seriously, knowing that they or people like them might bring the virus in contact with my 84-year-old diabetic dad. I’m angry a lot. I want to perform again but that won’t be happening soon. All my performer friends, from Broadway folk to puppeteers to fire acts, have had their whole lives wiped out for the foreseeable future. But sure, let’s hurry and make certain people can get her hair done.
Melanie: I feel a sadness that doesn’t seem to go away. Having lived in New York during 9/11 and the blackout, I remember seeing the very best of people and at moments the very worst. During this quarantine, I’ve been so disappointed in people and their responses and actions, mostly in regard to others. Before all of this, I would have said I was very optimistic and did try to see the best of any situation. I hope more than anything that I will be able to feel that way again. I am very lucky to be in this crazy time with my husband and dog; they have kept me sane and laughing as much as possible.
Carolyn and Leman Anderson
Leman: I learned to adjust to it. It made talking to people a little harder by keeping our distance. It also brought the household members closer.
Carolyn: It brought a strong impact on my life. I wasn't able to visit family nor church members in nursing homes and hospitals. I kept my daycare center open for the children of first responders. It was hard not having the privilege of eating out with friends nor having small get togethers with family and friends but we learned to adjust. I believe it brought household members together more. Also, it is teaching people to be more clean.
Zamaya and Zahara with pup
Amy Pilkington Artist
Ordered to stay at home. At first, sleeping in seems like a luxury. Watching Netflix all day in my PJs seems like a great idea. Ordering pizza sounds delicious. I stay up late. Cocktails start early. I call my mom and dad every day to check on them. Everyone is saying there will be a rush on food and we will run out so I try to fill my house with non-perishables and root vegetables. And some chocolate Cadbury eggs left over from Easter. One big bag of white chocolate and one dark.
I put the chocolate up high in a cupboard and try to not eat them all. This is futile. I pull over a chair and grab a little handful at a time. They go in four days — way too fast.
I feel lazy. I had two jobs I was working on. They were both put on hold due to my clients’ financial uncertainty and a general feeling of not knowing if they should be doing something nice for themselves with all the death and pain around. Every day seems like a frantic search for information. Who do I spend time with? Can I see my neighbor? Yes, we will be corona buddies. We walk dogs together and shop for groceries together. We take turns cooking and enjoy cocktails and movies together.
I’m talking to my friends from out of town a lot more. The phone is always ringing and sounding a text. We are all sharing videos and photos of people in quarantine doing funny things. We’re all starting to feel fat. I suggest not wearing elastic-waisted pants. My mother admits to eating three Oreos for breakfast. She has been a health nut her whole life.
People in my apartment complex are gardening like crazy, desperate to be outside and make something beautiful. Safe distancing get-togethers outside in the garden area are common. No one shares drinks or bottles. Sit 6 feet apart. Wear masks. Then the masks come off as it is hard to drink through them.
One night we light a fire and it is magical to sit around the pit and watch the flames and feel the warmth. The building management team has disappeared. They left the premises to the virus and have not been wiping the doors or communal areas. This seems to be a major source of my complaining. I’m becoming grumpy. This could be a bad diet or frustration or loneliness. It’s time I start trying to be creative and get myself inspired. Go to the studio. Turn off Netflix. Clean my kitchen. File for unemployment. Apply to grants. Speak to my mom and dad. They say they will help if I really need it but to exhaust every other option first.
I feel like a loser. I feel very flat. Nothing seems exciting or worthwhile. Thank goodness for my dog. She is an excellent cuddler.
Steve Blamires Author, Historian Jennifer Mackiewicz Arts
Jennifer: I moved to Beacon 19 years ago from Nevada. I was working for the artist Michael Helzer and, after 11 years, it was time to get out of the desert. I became the senior administrator at Dia:Beacon. When I arrived, Main Street was boarded up and Beacon was not a destination. I got involved with the community, served on boards for a community center gallery (now closed) and for BACA (now called Beacon Arts). And met so many wonderful people! But it wasn’t until the towers fell that I felt like a New Yorker. Steve, whose main income is as an historian on expedition cruise ships, lost all his contracts for the coming year. I have been underemployed or unemployed since 2008, so at the best of times, it’s been a struggle. Just two days ago, Steve’s unemployment came through, as did a pension from Scotland he didn’t even know he had. So we are OK for now.
Frederica Germany and Husband
Alvin Bell Barbershop Owner Church Deacon
Mostly concerned with missing my church family. Miss the routine of the same customers showing up for a haircut every 2-3 weeks. I give lots of hugs. Can't do that anymore.
Melissa Haydt with Lucas, 5, and Maggie
Melissa: I’m a registered nurse and have been working in one of the hardest-hit areas. I pray every day going to work that I will not bring this virus home to my family. I have trouble sleeping at night when I have to go to work. I feel that we are all realizing what we have always known: Family is the most important thing we have, and as long as we are all healthy and together, everything will be alright.
Lucas: I miss going to the diner for lunch with Poppy.
Allyn Peterson Massage Therapist Jennifer Meister with Naomi, 4, and Riley, 8
Jennifer: I miss family terribly. I used to see family in New York City about every other weekend, but now it’s been about two months. One thing I’ve enjoyed is cooking more, gardening and riding bikes as a family. The thing I like least is not knowing when it will end.
Riley: I like homeschooling because whenever you want, you can take a break and rest.
Allyn: I’m a private person, so I think the isolation affects me less than others, generally. There is a sense of normalcy I certainly miss, but I also hope our remote connectivity keeps evolving. Not long ago, our ancestors “shut down” life during the winter because the cold proved too great a risk. We’re learning a lot about essential services and adapting productivity.
Patrick and Marian Fredericks
Patrick: I take a walk with my mask over to the car and then we take a ride to Fishkill and Cold Spring. We have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We have good neighbors. Nothing bothers me. My wife moved to Beacon when we were married, 60 years ago. I grew up here. The mountains protect us.
Barbara Brickhouse,with her son,Turone; Tatyana,14; Haeven,17 months;and dog, Winston
Barbara: I cannot see and spend time with my children. And I miss going to church to worship with my church family.
Eric Diehl and Sarah Capua, with Santino
Eric: I will always be grateful that I got to see our child learn to crawl, walk and begin to babble. Some days have been joyful, while others filled with anxiety and fear. I have been able to plan alternative means of making a living at my home studio. I know that I have friends and family out there to lend a hand, and it’s comforting to know that millions of others are in the same boat or worse than us.
Sarah:This time has been moments of contradictions which don't actually feel seperate. The heaviness of suffering, the fear of lack of control, the quiet time watching my son learn and grow, the gift of health and comfort, an aching heart for those who are risking everything to care for others and those who won't live through this. My son teaches me how to focus on the moment at hand. Every morning we light a candle and remember we are connected to it all.
Charlie Whitted Bus Driver
I have never experienced this in my 70 year old life. I don't like wearing a mask. I can't see my family and I can't watch my grandkids play basketball.
Gail Wauford and Dimitri Archip
Gail: We are so lucky to have each other to hold. It’s a challenge to fight the depression that comes from being out of work and isolated. When this is over, I’m going to give everyone I know the longest, most heartfelt hug.
Dimitri: As stressful as the lockdown is, I feel fortunate to be living in Beacon, where the population is not as dense as it is in Brooklyn, where we used to live. As a musician, it's been difficult not being able to share the experience with a live audience. As a bartender, I miss the energy of the social gathering place. Of all the people I’ve known in my life, I am lucky to have been quarantined with Gail. Despite the inherent challenges, she has been my North Star throughout the storm.
Lisa Montanaro Senior Sales Manager Andrew Coppnick Ironworker Local 580
Lisa:I have become used to working from home. My biggest fear is if the internet cuts out, then I wouldn't be able to work at all. I'm grateful to still have a job as my company has furloughed some of the employees. I'm grateful Andrew is still working. I'm grateful we're not parents yet as some parents out there are living a real nightmare. None of our friends and family are sick. I spent 13 months in prison in Wisconsin on Marijuana related crimes. This isn't as bad. At least I have internet, grocery stores, my king size bed and partner, Andrew. We put in an application to foster dogs but haven't heard back. I would love the added company of an animal since I am home alone all day. We go fishing when Andrew comes home from work-striped bass season- and they are delicious. I hope this is over soon as I am disappointed by how quickly our thriving economy fell apart. I'm now seeing empty storefronts on Main Street and I haven't seen that in a decade. I also don't believe in too many government handouts, so it is a bit of a catch 22. I hope we can all get back on our feet soon.
Andrew:This is the new normal. My life's not that affected other than doing our normal day to day things. I'm doing just fine, making the best out of the new normal.
Greg Anderson and Sara Milonovich
Sara: On March 10, I played on Broadway, subbing the violin chair in Come From Away. On March 12, Broadway went dark. By that weekend every live performance I had scheduled through the spring had canceled. Summer festival cancellations began trickling in over the following weeks, each one stinging like rubbing alcohol hitting the cracks in our hands.
We knew it was coming, but turns out knowing something intellectually and processing it emotionally are different. Our industry is frozen. We know it will come back, we just don’t know when or how. We’ve been lucky so far to have remained healthy in spite of almost certain exposure. Some of our friends and colleagues have not fared so well. Every day feels like some exercise in grieving, whether a human life or a human experience, which is what live music is.
Months later and arts workers are feeling forgotten by our elected officials and a portion of the general population, as well. I’m lonely. I’m sad. I’m homesick for the stage, the studio, the road. I miss my bandmates. I miss even the late nights and early mornings, when putting in contact lenses in the wee hours feels more like jamming a couple of Triscuits into my eyes. I miss the random moments of weirdness and beauty. Some days the loneliness and anger at the way things are (and the ignorance and selfishness of people that is now prolonging the agony) just boil up to clog my throat like hot bitter sludge. Some days the beauty and gratitude in the little things - the garden, birds at the feeder, a run by the river, sitting in the sunshine, gratitude for health and a cozy home are enough. These days they have to be.
Robert Merino and Betsy Rivera with Robert Merino, 12, and Jennifer Velasquez, 15
Robert: I am Peruvian. I have worked at the Cardinal Health warehouse in Montgomery for 11 years. We supply medical materials for hospitals. Since March I have been working day and night. I disinfect myself before I get home. I know that soon the day will come where I will be home for a longer time so I can also hug my family without fearing I will contaminate them. [Translated from Spanish]
Betsy: I am from Puerto Rico and have lived in Beacon for 25 years. I’m a teacher and work with special children with autism and Down syndrome. They do not understand why we can’t meet for class and why we have to be at home. I miss them so much. At home I help my children with their schoolwork and we prepare meals and desserts together and we make masks for the children to protect themselves. And we draw positive pictures and put them on the windows for our neighbors. We have faith that everything will pass and we will be free. [Translated from Spanish]
Robert: It all started in school like a normal day. It was a Friday. So I was ready for the weekend. Once Monday arrived, school was canceled. I didn’t have a big reaction. I kind of predicted schools were going to close. Overall, quarantine isn’t that bad. As long as you stay home, wash your hands and stay active, you should be fine.
Jennifer: I study and review alone to teach myself the lessons and prepare for tests. I’ve been home since March 14. It is very sad and scary to watch the news to hear that many people are dying and not having hope since there is no medicine or cure. It seems so unreal to see everything closed.
He misses all his fellow church members. He misses his soul clan/ motorcycle club where he plays cards and watches sports. All gone. Paul is everyone’s big brother and his friends gravitated to Paul to talk with and receive guidance and wisdom.
Rick Roger Artist
Kolt Reagle and Goose
I spent a good amount of time feeling scared like everyone else. I would start painting and almost instantly stop before I picked up a brush and question why I was working, who was I painting for if the world was shut down? It was so much easier to feel negative and wallow in the uncertainty. But I would wake up every day and get excited about the stuff we were going to work on that didn’t mean anything. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad or just a silly idea. It was freeing. What day of the week it was didn't matter. It got old though, we were without focus and ignoring the future.
Lucille Rodriguez Retired Nurse
It's really different, no church but we are a church. Church is just the building. I miss my church family. I can't see or hug my family and I can't give them the love. I take precautions and make sure to wear a face mask. I love wearing lipstick but I can't anymore."
Patrick Mangan Painter Sharon Brant Painter
Patrick: In these difficult times, I am lucky to have my wife and an environment that makes the process of art possible.
This is the perfect time for renewal.
Now we can:
Renew the way we do things.
Accept changes in our daily lives.
Cultivate inner peace by promoting self-control and self-restraint.
Be patient with others and ourself.
Create a sanctuary of your surroundings.
Have conversations with yourself.
Thank your mind and body for its physical and emotional strength each day.
Cultivate inner peace.
Remember all great artists, writers, composers, musicians, actors, designers,
humanitarians, and scientists who have given themselves time to create in solitude.
Who was I during this time? The news was terrifying and the unknowns and potentials were boundless. I was a single person with two dogs in a new town with family a 48 minute drive away. And as we knew, if you ended up in the hospital, no family would be by your side. I was renting in an elevator building with many people not understanding the importance of wearing a mask. And what about surfaces? We still didn’t know how easily Covid could be contracted by touch. I stayed the calmest when I was out creating these portraits. Beaconites are so interesting. I loved meeting everyone and now have a deeper feeling of community that often takes a long time to develop. I wanted to begin new friendships but alas, I was the masked photographer who probably won’t see most of these people until life resumes without Covid standing in the middle. Yet these folks remain within 5 minutes of my new home that I purchased the day before the lockdown began and finally got to move into in August.