March 2020 will be a historic moment in time that Americans will always remember for the onset of the coronavirus and its everlasting impact on society. Like many creative types, my work has suffered disruptions, both by social distancing and a general feeling of malaise. In addition, I found out my mother passed away at the beginning of the month.
Now I am striving to rekindle the art and find a sense of purpose. But as time progresses, and my work stops and starts, I am thinking that’s a mistake.
Maybe I should simply be present and bear witness to the sadness. That in its own right is an expression.
To get there, though, for me I have to own what’s happening. I cannot simply ignore my feelings, the profound sense of sadness and suffering I feel and am now witnessing, both in my immediate life and like other Americans through the news.
Devastated from the Start
For me March was extra bad, starting with the sudden death of my mother, Jacqueline Bigar. I was informed on March 2 at 1:30 a.m. by the Fairfax County Police.
Then I flew to Arizona to start getting her affairs in order. When I returned on March 16, I went to work and was told to work from home until May 11. Since then, I have been at home.
My personal photography has suffered, and professional photography business has collapsed both because I could not be in DC during the first part of the month, and then because of the social distancing issue. But more than anything, I haven’t wanted to shoot very much. I have felt overwhelmed by a dark tsunami of negativity.
This sense of malaise is not unique right now. I am not alone. Some are losing loved ones now to this disease, and many more will in the near future.
My mom’s cause of death is still undetermined. Maybe that’s a comfort in comparison to the terrible lonely death that the coronavirus often delivers in a hospital. Losing a parent ushers a deep pain that only those that have been there can understand no matter how prepared you may think you are. It’s still something that I feel every day, often at odd and unexpected times. So it is with mourning.
Nor am I alone in the inability to go anywhere or see many things during the day. My wife and daughter and family are all suffering from the same social distancing requirements — as are my neighbors and billions of people across the globe. Yet, photography of the neighborhood doesn’t compel me.
Creating Art in a Negative Time
For me, photography is an expressive art. It shows the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In such a time I believe that my art as a photographer is to capture the feeling, the world’s view and mine, too. It is a time for mindfulness and also compassion.
While I love photographing beautiful scenes and magnetic people, it may be a time to photograph sadness and strength, grey days and powerful gestures, too. It may simply be a time to capture the very simple moments of compassion and togetherness in the human spirit. If the eye is present, the lens can interpret.
I appreciate photojournalism, but at the same time, I think the photographer’s perception of the world has an undeniable influence on the image. Photojournalism as well as street photography not only witnesses something that happens, but also how that photographer feels about it.
These may be the worst of times in my daughter’s life. Then again it may not be. We can’t deny what is happening, but there is still joy in this world. Children often serve as lightning rods for joy, and as such it is a pleasure to be around her.
As the spirit moves me, I will create and experience the coronavirus era through the camera. It makes no sense to force creativity to me. There are exercises to invoke it more frequently, but I hope to do so in an authentic genuine manner, as I feel it.
How are you handling the coronavirus situation?