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Heard on CultureShift

COVID Diaries: The Pause Between Moments

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Image credit: Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

In the first installment of “COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience,” we asked five documentary photographers to share art that illustrated this week’s assignment: “Take A Breath.”

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101.9 WDET presents COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience.”

Through WDET’s StoryMakers and in partnership with Documenting Detroit, we’ve commissioned five documentary photographers to create a multimedia introspective that taps into our shared experience of the novel coronavirus. Over six weeks, the artists will create work under a given assignment.

This week’s assignment: “Take A Breath.”



Take A Breath”

Introduction by Courtney Wise Randolph

Click play to listen to Courtney narrate the introduction to “COVID Diaries.”

Letting fresh air in.Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

Letting fresh air in.

One thing’s for sure, two thing’s for certain — there is an invisible enemy among us.

We don’t know how to fight it yet. So, we do what we can to stave it off; washing our hands again and again, making them like kindling — dry and ashy enough to start a fire. 

And we wait, hidden in our private dwellings, for news that science has provided us a vaccine and the cosmos has extended our grace.

In the meantime, we breathe. When we remember that we can, we breathe in deep.

For those deep breaths, we are most grateful.

So many of us are unsure of what’s next. If our jobs haven’t gone, they’ve forced us to take a break. There is only so much of outside to manage from inside our living rooms.

That’s when we drag a chair to the front door and post it just on the other side to take a breath of fresh air — dare we call it holy air, for now — and sit. Maybe we will get to wave and shout a greeting to our neighbors. Last month, they were strangers.

Back inside, we cook. We eat greens, beans, and cornbread — sustenance and comfort.

Close to sleep, we listen, momentarily comforted by the snores of those lying near us that annoyed us so deeply before. The stillness is peace until we remember why we’re in.

We take another breath. That’s when we hear it.

Birds chirp even in darkness, not just at dawn.

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Everyone’s experience is different. WDET is inviting you to share your own COVID Diaries.

It’s simple:


Chapter One

Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

My name is Rosa María Zamarrón. I’m a photographer living in Southwest Detroit.

Click play to hear Rosa María discuss her experience during the pandemic and the affect on her work.


I am currently staying with my mom, my two sisters and my niece. Before the pandemic, we never saw each other. So it’s been pretty strange to be in the same space for so long and get to know each other again.

I kind of feel like I’m in high school.

<b>Left:</b> Here I captured the moment we are praying our last prayer, one that is not found in modern prayer books and almost like an oral tradition passed down from our great great grandparents.Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Left: Here I captured the moment we are praying our last prayer, one that is not found in modern prayer books and almost like an oral tradition passed down from our great great grandparents.

Since we’ve been in quarantine, everyday at 3:00 pm my mother, María de Jesús, has us pray the rosary.

Not being able to attend mass, especially during Lent, has saddened her. However, it hasn’t lessened her devotion. 

<b>Left:</b> Self-portrait. <b>Right: </b> Mikaela, my sister, is passing the time on her phone in our living room. She enjoys watching TikTok videos.  Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Left: Self-portrait. Right: Mikaela, my sister, is passing the time on her phone in our living room. She enjoys watching TikTok videos.

I mainly do documentary work and photojournalism. So my whole thing is to photograph strangers and to talk to people. Not being able to do that has been really difficult. 

I also work as a medical photographer for an eye institute. I’ve recently been furloughed. And I had already not been to work for two weeks. So at least I get health insurance, but I have, essentially, no steady income coming in. So it’s been a little nerve-wracking trying to figure out what to do.

It’s just weird times. This is a perfect pause to shift gears and to figure out… where I really want to go. So. It’s interesting.

— Rosa María

As I am in my room more frequently, I take notice of how the light changes and shadows take shape on the walls. Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

As I am in my room more frequently, I take notice of how the light changes and shadows take shape on the walls.

In order to visualize the assignment, I breathed on the lens and took pictures of everyday situations in my home. Here, my roommate Laura washes dishes while her dog, Violet, looks on. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

In order to visualize the assignment, I breathed on the lens and took pictures of everyday situations in my home. Here, my roommate Laura washes dishes while her dog, Violet, looks on.

I’m Amy Sacka and I live on the east side of Detroit in a historic home that was built in 1926.

Click play to hear Amy discuss her experience during the pandemic and her modern family.


I’ve owned the home for about seven years now and, for the most part, I’ve lived in it on my own. But even when I bought the house, I always felt like it was meant for more than just me. 

About two to three years ago, I was 42 and I decided to bring roommates into the house. Now I have one roommate and it’s been a wonderful experience in how to create your own modern family.

During this quarantine time, I’m really excited to introduce you to my life and maybe even introduce you to my roommate, Laura.

My roommate Laura stands underneath our living room curtain. We’ve tried to have fun during quarantine, passing the time by taking creative photos and doing silly things we normally wouldn’t think to do. Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

My roommate Laura stands underneath our living room curtain. We’ve tried to have fun during quarantine, passing the time by taking creative photos and doing silly things we normally wouldn’t think to do.

When thinking about the theme, the Margaret Atwood poem “Variation On the Word Sleep,” came to mind. 

It’s a love poem, but there’s a line at the end of it that has really stayed in my mind for so many years.

I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” — Margaret Atwood, poet

I think breathing is something that we often don’t notice, that is so automatic that we just kind of take it for granted. And it’s also invisible.

Everything we’re doing now is through the lens of breathing. I wanted to bring attention to the fact that it’s all about the air around us. 

Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

Most days, I kind of wake up and throw the sweatpants on and go downstairs and I’m really not going to see anybody. But today I thought, “I’m going to blow dry my hair.”

I know it may seem like a simple task, but I think in this period of slowness and space and time, that we’re able to pay attention to the little things we do in our life. Step back and pay attention to the small things in life that can give you joy.

There’s Buddhist meditations that talk about paying attention to every bite of food that you eat. Every step that you take. Really feeling the ground under your feet.

Pay attention to the little details in your life, like, what does the hot air feel like going through my hair? Does it feel good to brush my hair? These little things, we now have the space to pay attention to those things. And I think if we do that it can relieve some of the pressure that has been going on.

Amy

Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Aniela and Emanuel, my children, build a web in the doorway between the living room and dining room.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Aniela and Emanuel, my children, build a web in the doorway between the living room and dining room.

I’m Erik Paul Howard, a photographer from Southwest Detroit.

Click play to hear Erik discuss his family, community, and thoughts on health and work.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the time that we’re in, and how to spend my time.

And, of course, my thoughts have often went to really thinking about health, because that’s what everything’s about. That’s what the pause is about.

I’m fortunate that I’ve been spending the time at home with our small, immediate family, my wife, two kids. And so while there’s a lot of talk about loneliness, I think our luxury is that we haven’t found time to be lonely. I think it’s probably among the most privileged of positions. 

Emanuel takes a break from building the morning's train track, a daily routine, and takes in some "Wild Kratts" on the television.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Emanuel takes a break from building the morning’s train track, a daily routine, and takes in some “Wild Kratts” on the television.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our use of the word “productive.”

I don’t think we’re always using the word “productive” in a way that relates directly to health. I think a lot of times we’re using the word in a way that reinforces an idea that we’re supposed to set the idea of health aside. 

And so, during this timeout, I’ve really cherished the opportunity to connect with small groups of people, the people in my house, but also virtually, with other folks that are committed to using what we all have between us to serve each other in our creativity and in our work.

Erik

Aniela and Emanuel hide out in their fort in the living room.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET.
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET.

Aniela and Emanuel hide out in their fort in the living room.

Photography mentors and students from the Remote Ally Project meet virtually for instruction, editing, and critique during the second week of online programming. Students from around Detroit together with several international participants are completing photographic missions to equip them in storytelling and introspection amid a time of global stay at home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET.
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET.

Photography mentors and students from the Remote Ally Project meet virtually for instruction, editing, and critique during the second week of online programming. Students from around Detroit together with several international participants are completing photographic missions to equip them in storytelling and introspection amid a time of global stay at home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This night I decided to take a break and watch one of my favorite crime shows on Hulu, “Obsession: Dark Desires.”Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

This night I decided to take a break and watch one of my favorite crime shows on Hulu, “Obsession: Dark Desires.”

My name is Rachel Elise Thomas, and I’m a collage artist, documentarian and art instructor based in Detroit.  

Click play to hear Rachel discuss her work, family, and experience during COVID-19.


COVID has disrupted quite a few things that I’ve been planning to do. But I’m not too worried about it. So many people like me are in the same situation.

I’m just thankful for my art. It helps keeps my mind off things. And it also helps because there will be a life after quarantine. I’m not going to let this steal my joy… or my vision. 

I am thankful for my family and my art everyday. Those are the things that really keep me going.  

My mother, Michelle, observes what’s going on outside her bedroom window at our home.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

My mother, Michelle, observes what’s going on outside her bedroom window at our home.

I think that in this situation, a lot of us, or people like me, we like to pride ourselves on just being busy. Still… even in all this.

I think it’s important to not always be doing. It’s okay to do nothing.

— Rachel

Watching TV in the family room in the home I share with my parents is a rare occurrence. I enjoy it when I can.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

Watching TV in the family room in the home I share with my parents is a rare occurrence. I enjoy it when I can.

My name is Darryl DeAngelo Terrell, I’m a photographer, curator and DJ.

Click play to hear Darryl discuss the impacts of the pandemic on their work.


After three weeks, Peace Lilly is back.Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

After three weeks, Peace Lilly is back.

During this odd time that is COVID-19, I have been mostly in the house.

I am lucky enough to have a job that requires that I still work. I’ve been teaching my students via ZOOM.

I have also, unfortunately, most of my exhibitions that I had planned for this semester cancelled. And as one of the 2020 Red Bull House of Art residents, my session has been postponed, but it’s looking like it may have just been cancelled. 

I’ve been in the house, most of the time. 

— Darryl


COVID Diaries, Exhibition

COVID Diaries is a ten-week multimedia introspective that taps into our shared experience of the novel coronavirus.


Detroit StoryMakers

This post is a part of Detroit StoryMakers.

StoryMakers is a new approach to telling the stories that change how we experience metro Detroit. We train, connect, and support media makers from communities across the region and share their stories with the world. This work is made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs

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