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Heard on CultureShift

COVID Diaries: A City Waiting For Your Return

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Image credit: Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

In the sixth installment of “COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience,” five documentary photographers created art that illustrates this week’s assignment: “Coming Up For Air.”

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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 ten weeks, the artists will create work under a given assignment.

Experience the first five chapters.

This week’s assignment: “Coming Up For Air.”



Coming Up For Air”

Introduction by Courtney Wise Randolph

Click play to listen to Courtney narrate the introduction to Chapter 6 of “COVID Diaries.”

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

After five weeks of quarantine, my toddler demonstrated the need for outside walks on rainy days. There was no formal request. She simply drank half a cup of water and poured the rest on the rug, in a quest to delightfully splash in muddy puddles like her favorite cartoon pig. 

At week eight, she took to licking our front window screen anytime the window was open. She declared it makes “water stand in the air.”

And just this weekend, she squeezed half a bottle’s worth of my premium shampoo onto a table to, in her words, “make sheep.” 

Quarantine has made me a better parent.

With all the extra opportunity to ask my child why she does these things with the potential to drive me batty, I’ve discovered she’s a remarkably resourceful and take charge human being, using what she’s got to make her own fun, rather than looking to me or her father to be the source of it all.

Staying at home is no easier for her than us. There’s regular confusion about why auntie keeps dropping things off on the porch but never steps inside. There’s the question if she’ll ever see her friends again. And no matter how much she asks for it, I can see her tiring of her tablet and the TV.

But last night she sat next to me, pressed an app I didn’t know she had on her tablet, and told me “deep breath.” Apparently, in the midst of all the uncertainty, fear, and everyday stress life in the age of COVID-19 brings, I live with a two-year-old who occasionally stops for a moment to take deep breaths and center herself.

If that’s not a reason to be hopeful about her future and mine, was I even looking for one in the first place?

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Chapter Six

Emanuel walks through an older section of the cemetery, during a much less crowded time, two days after Mother's Day.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Emanuel walks through an older section of the cemetery, during a much less crowded time, two days after Mother’s Day.

Erik Paul Howard

What if the very air that we’re coming up for is the air that chokes us?”


The conversation about relaxing and “return to normal” feels premature.

It’s kind of like when you go swimming when you’re younger, and you’re excited, and you’re in the water with friends and you want to see how long you can stay under. You hold your breath and you stay there as long as you can until you feel like you couldn’t possibly stay under another second longer.

And then you try to come up, and then there’s somebody above you. It’s not on purpose or anything like that, but you can’t get to the surface. You know… That feeling, about the delay of getting that breath of air that you need feels kind of like what’s happening right now. Because you’re being invited to come up for air but you can’t.

So this feels like that. Like being in that pool, everything’s cemented over, with nowhere to come up.

And the other part of it is, what if the very air that we’re coming up for is the air that chokes us?

Erik

Jay stops down the street to visit his young nephew for his birthday. While things have been on hold, Jay has been getting things done around the house and spending extended time with his wife and children. He's worried that 'it's going to take a long time to actually be normal again, but also people may move too fast and cause it to spiral out of control again.'Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Jay stops down the street to visit his young nephew for his birthday. While things have been on hold, Jay has been getting things done around the house and spending extended time with his wife and children. He’s worried that ‘it’s going to take a long time to actually be normal again, but also people may move too fast and cause it to spiral out of control again.’

Emanuel helps blow out the candles on Jill's birthday cake.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Emanuel helps blow out the candles on Jill’s birthday cake.

Mary Gagnon works in her garden planting hostas and a variety of other plants in the rain amid stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is concerned about 'pressures to socialize without protective measures and distancing. That those who don't respect or believe what is happening will continue to push and put my children in jeopardy of being ill.'Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Mary Gagnon works in her garden planting hostas and a variety of other plants in the rain amid stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is concerned about ‘pressures to socialize without protective measures and distancing. That those who don’t respect or believe what is happening will continue to push and put my children in jeopardy of being ill.’

Emanuel stands on the X closest to the door on the sidewalk — clear guidance to encourage customers to keep six feet of distance — at Cris Engle's Flower Shop on Woodmere St. in Southwest Detroit.Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET
Taken by Erik Paul Howard for WDET

Emanuel stands on the X closest to the door on the sidewalk — clear guidance to encourage customers to keep six feet of distance — at Cris Engle’s Flower Shop on Woodmere St. in Southwest Detroit.

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

Amy Sacka

You’re walking around a city and you see every store closed. It’s like out of a science fiction novel.”


Jalen, Tamra and Milan Reynolds walk a nearly empty river walk in downtown Detroit.Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

Jalen, Tamra and Milan Reynolds walk a nearly empty river walk in downtown Detroit.

This week’s assignment, I did what in the past I would normally do, which is I went downtown and strolled the streets and I got a lot of joy in talking with the people who were outside, enjoying the nice weather.

But what you don’t see in the photos is the space that was around the people I photographed, which was eerie and empty and a little bit foreboding.

You’re walking around a city and you see every store closed, you’re wondering “Where can I get a glass of water if I’m thirsty?” It’s odd. It’s like almost a city out of a science fiction novel.

I took a photo of a family at the riverfront and this was a really memorable experience for me.

One of the things I like about these photos is you really feel the sense of the family unit. And I’m hoping that other families see a reflection of themselves in this photo.

Maybe this era has brought families closer together, I’m sure a lot of people have experienced a lot of frustration as well, but I like the feeling of closeness and togetherness that I see in these photos and they just make me smile.

I think they represent the best of what this period represents, which is protecting the people that we value the most and finding joy in the ones that we love.

Flowers are on gorgeous display in Campus Martius. It's an eerie sight to see such beauty among these empty streets.Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

Flowers are on gorgeous display in Campus Martius. It’s an eerie sight to see such beauty among these empty streets.

India Gardner has just graduated from Henry Ford college.Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET
Taken by Amy Sacka for WDET

India Gardner has just graduated from Henry Ford college.

When I was downtown, I took a photo of a woman that was in a graduation cap. 

I went up to her I asked her, “Oh, did you just graduate?”

And she said, “Yes, I graduated from Henry Ford College, yesterday I celebrated Mother’s Day and this week is my birthday.”

I’m just trying to make the best of it.”

And one of the things I really like about the photo of her is that she has a look of strength about her, while at the same time, there’s a vulnerability there.

I think there’s this oscillation during this period of those two feelings, which is “be strong,” but yet I think we all feel vulnerable when we’re thinking about the future.

In some ways I think this woman really represented what I truly feel.

Amy 

I smelled Black Haven, it felt like homeTaken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

I smelled Black Haven, it felt like home

Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

I can feel my body gaining weight, I can see the weight being gained. So I went for a walk, just me, myself and my camera.”


So, we are I guess officially in the third month of quarantine? It doesn’t really feel like quarantine any more because everybody is still getting out of their house and doing stuff.

I read that this Sunday, May 17th, was the first day of no deaths due to COVID-19, which is exciting. 

I went out this past Saturday. Really just to go out for a walk. I can feel my body gaining weight, I can see the weight being gained. So I went for a walk around Eastern Market, really didn’t buy anything, just me, myself and my camera. I took photos of the bits of crowds, the bits of people that I did see there, and then hung out with friends, which was nice because I’ve been in the house by myself. Like, extremely by myself, because I live by myself now.

So yeah, it was nice to get out and get some air, and to hang out with friends who I haven’t gotten the chance to hang out with since February.

Darryl

Ran into Honey, she putting on her gloves.Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

Ran into Honey, she putting on her gloves.

belle isle PizzaTaken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

belle isle Pizza

Leaving Frans, going home.Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET
Taken by Darryl DeAngelo Terrell for WDET

Leaving Frans, going home.

Working with the weather instead of against it to take a self-portrait in Downtown Detroit.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

Working with the weather instead of against it to take a self-portrait in Downtown Detroit.

Rachel Elise Thomas

This was me walking around in familiar territory that looks unfamiliar, without all the people and the noises and the sounds.”  


One of the things that’s really been on my mind heavily this week is the fact that we’re all going through something.

A lot of people are looking to their family and friends to be their psychiatrist or therapist and lay heavy things onto them at this time. You know, it’s good thing to share things with people who you trust and it’s great to be vulnerable, but with that vulnerability and letting things out, it’s also important to make sure to ask if the person you’re venting to is ok.

I pray for people that are mentally suffering. But if you’re going to take the time to vent to somebody, also make sure and be an ear for them and ask them if they’re ok. Make sure it’s not one sided. 

A building doorman takes a smoke break in a desolate lot in Downtown Detroit.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

A building doorman takes a smoke break in a desolate lot in Downtown Detroit.

I’m usually in the suburbs where I live, but for this week I was downtown a lot.

I haven’t really been downtown like that. I’ve never seen or heard Detroit like this before. It’s eerie, it’s quiet, it’s so very desolate. You know, I’m used to certain neighborhoods in Detroit being desolate like that, but it’s still different. Not like this.

So, for this week, this was just me walking around in familiar territory that looks unfamiliar, sort of. It looks so different without all the people and the noises and the sounds.  

Rachel

I feel that I can really take my time and appreciate things without being interrupted. That’s one of the very few positive aspects about this time that we’re enduring.Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET
Taken by Rachel Elise Thomas for WDET

I feel that I can really take my time and appreciate things without being interrupted. That’s one of the very few positive aspects about this time that we’re enduring.

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

Rosa María Zamarrón

I’ve been at home for the past few weeks, coming out I can feel the anxiety build when I see too many people.”


Up for air can be interpreted in so many ways. These long walks I've been taking have felt like a relief and a return to what I felt I may have lost over the years. Finding peace in chaos by looking up and looking around. Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET
Taken by Rosa María Zamarrón for WDET

Up for air can be interpreted in so many ways. These long walks I’ve been taking have felt like a relief and a return to what I felt I may have lost over the years. Finding peace in chaos by looking up and looking around.

This week, I really was amped about walking downtown.

I think it’s just something that reminds me of when I was younger and starting out photographing. Because I went to Cass Tech, I would come down and walk around a lot. Coming from school sometimes I would go walk to my sister who worked at DTE so it wasn’t even that far.

So recently just being able to walk downtown has been a huge comfort for me. Looking at the buildings, looking at the things that I’ve forgotten, missed the details. It’s rained a lot so I was really looking at puddles and the reflections in water, and remembering a lot of photographs that I’d seen in photo books and wondering how that moment happened before them.

So it’s been pretty cool just walking around. I’ve been trying to make sense of everything. Walking around, you see a lot of the healthcare workers walking back to their apartments, exhausted. It just puts a lot on your minds to think about.

I did venture to the riverfront and all of the sudden, I just saw so many people, and a lot of people without face masks. I started to get so anxious because it just really shocked me. There’s no way you can social distance with that many people there. 

And I know it’s a nice day and it’s going to be harder, but like it was just, it was just too much I think. 

Now that I’ve been staying at home mainly for the past few weeks and then coming out and trying to photograph but maintain my distance, I can feel the anxiety build when I see too many people and that’s just kind of bad. I’m slowly becoming more of a hermit because of all of this.

 Rosa María 

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

 


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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