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.
Dimitri Mais has been going to Coney Island for the better part of a decade. Not to ride the rides, per se, but to indulge himself photographically. When he’s not busy with client-based work, you can most likely find him taking pictures on Brooklyn’s southwestern tip.
I live pretty close, about four subway stops away, and have been documenting Coney Island for the past seven years now — it’s my ongoing personal project.
That’s where I feel free, relaxed, and inspired enough to practice and experiment with different gear, techniques, and ideas.
Go to the Wikipedia page for Coney Island, and you’ll see a site that’s a jarring one for our COVID-warped brains: a picture of thousands upon thousands of beachgoers right next to each other. Similar imagery can be found in Dimitri’s edit, but this time around the work took on a starkly different look.
This time, I really wanted to change the usual approach. Instead of focusing on the usual vibrant, energetic, and extremely social environment of Coney Island, I wanted to create illustrations that capture the lonely atmosphere of today’s reality.
Without the usual energy, scenes became more static, time seems to pass slower, and I wanted to create the photographs that illustrate the overall atmosphere. I spent 3-4 hours for three days wondering around and documenting. It was very meditative and calm.
Therein lies the silver lining to doing this work: instead of being surrounding by humanity as he would on a given day during the before times, Dimitri had the place mostly to himself. Mostly. There were other people there, and the photographer was only too happy to get imagery of fellow Coney Island visitors.
I love the running family on the beach shot — it shows positive spirit and resilience. You can also see other families around them, spread apart but still together.
An optimist at heart, Dimitri interprets the fact that we’re all under the same restrictions as a sign that we’re learning to be more empathetic to each other’s plights. It’s a lovely thought, one that hopefully holds true as we get through this never-before-seen period in time.
Even though we’re more separated/distanced from each other physically, in spirit and emotionally I feel people are much closer today.
We’re more understanding and mindful. I guess being separated doesn’t have to feel lonely.
Check out more of Dimitri’s work at dimitrimais.com.
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page!
Check out how WM is helping photographers during the pandemic on our COVID-19 Resources page.