As COVID-19 has interrupted daily life, people from every profession have had to figure out ways to be productive — and photographers are no exception. Each week, we’ll share stories from our members about how they’re staying mentally and technically sharp during the pandemic.
We all have our emotional outlets, our ways of blowing off steam, gaining peace of mind, or making sense of the surreal. For Angelo Merendino — and many others in his line of work — that means taking pictures.
My camera has always felt like more than a tool to just make photographs. It’s been my way to express what I feel and need, to examine, and to hopefully gain a better understanding of the world around me.
COVID-19 is a simply ubiquitous figment of contemporary life. It’s part of nearly every news story published, and it’s essentially impossible to have a conversation without bringing it up. When it became clear about a month ago that this virus was going to fundamentally alter our lives, Angelo did what most of us did: he read up on COVID-19 endlessly, partly because he had time to do so.
My initial response to the Coronavirus pandemic was to spend the day staring at my phone and getting wound up on Twitter. I wanted to know what was happening and what I could do to stay safe. Like many people, I was frightened, and I felt overwhelmed. Adding to my anxiety, my work came to a halt.
At a certain point, your brain can only handle so much coronavirus information. It becomes emotionally exhausting to go on news sites and read about medical professionals and economists predicting the worst, let alone about politicians who — like the rest of us — may have no idea what they’re doing. Thus, we return to emotional outlets: for Angelo, walks with a camera (and a mask) in tow.
After a few days of feeling tense and not sleeping through the night, I decided I would take a step back from news and social media. I tried to limit what I was reading and what sources I believed to be accurate. I’ve experienced trauma in my life, and I knew I had to find a healthier way to address what I was feeling.
Nature and fresh air have always been a source of calm for me, so geared up in a mask and practicing social distancing, I’ve been going for daily walks in my neighborhood with a medium format camera.
Somehow, Angelo allowed himself to forget about COVID-19 during these walks — if only for a few moments. What he found out is that everyone is looking for that now-coveted sense of regularity in spite of restrictions.
I’ve noticed that if you let go of the pandemic for a minute you will see that life is still happening. It is springtime, and gardens are waiting to be cultivated. Homes need maintaining, dogs need walking …
And kids will be kids. This said, the presence of coronavirus cannot be avoided. Playgrounds are closed in accordance with social distancing laws.
Personal safety measures such as wearing gloves and a mask and social distancing are recommended, limiting contact with family and friends.
What’s incredible about these images is that, try as they might, even they can’t quite get out from under COVID-19’s shadow. The image of the woman — Liz, Angelo’s wife — reading on her couch is pretty normal, except for the fact that it was taken during the middle of a weekday. The shot of the books features a Purell bottle tucked in the corner. The photo of the kids on their bikes is pretty normal, but for the fact that no one else is outside. And the imagery of the swings and steps perfectly encapsulates where we are at present juncture. Still, creating these images was cathartic for Angelo and gave him the opportunity to find “normalcy” during this unprecedented era.
Making photographs is how I step outside of the chaos that’s become day to day life. It’s my way of finding normalcy amidst uncertainty.
See more of Angelo’s photography at angelomerendino.com.
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page!