My Unintentional Pandemic Photo Project
Story and photos| Marley Molkentin
When the pandemic started, about midway through the final semester of my senior year of college, it didn’t feel real. I was used to riding the train and buses at least twice a day, running errands all around the city and photographing for my school projects. As a photojournalism student, it has become second nature to react to life events using my camera. So when school told us not to come back in-person, classes moved online and the stay-at-home order went into place, I reacted with simultaneous depression and need for expression. The depression made me not want to pick up my camera at all. Without any community gatherings or celebrations to photograph, I felt uninspired and purposeless. But my self-expression came into play without me even realizing it. I started to take daily walks around my neighborhood just to get out of my apartment, move my body and get some fresh air.
On those walks I would constantly pull out my phone and document interesting signs, humans, headlines and other unique impacts the pandemic had on the world around me. Because I couldn’t take public transit anymore, I ended up walking down nearly every street within a mile radius of my neighborhood and discovered so many little hidden gems and beautiful neighbors finding ways to connect during a time of fear and social distancing.
I honestly didn’t think too much of the photos I was snapping; I just knew it was really grounding for me. When I posted the photos on my Instagram story, I got a lot of responses from people saying they really loved seeing the details of the pandemic I was capturing, so I compiled these images into a story highlight. It wasn’t until this week that I looked back at the highlight and realized I had created an unintentional photo project over the last 8 months. Funny how even when I felt I was in a time of personal stagnancy and purposelessness, I was still creating something meaningful. It’s pretty reflective of this whole year, don’t you think?
Click through the slideshow above to see a sampling of Marley’s photo project. To see the full project, check out her instagram.