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.
One of the most important aspects of journalism is the “little picture,” which is an individual story that informs a larger societal trend and, in the process, humanizes it. In this instance, William DeShazer met with a woman named Erica Battle, one of millions of Americans struggling to find work because of the COVID-19 crisis. Reading about her difficulties with reworking her budget, paying the mortgage, and raising a child puts a face to the myriad challenges people around the world are currently negotiating.
I love working with the New York Times because you get to contribute to the best of the best. Doesn’t matter if it’s an op-ed on springtime and I spend a day documenting new blooms (my second to last assignment with them) with a macro lens or a city struggling with the issues of gentrification and spending days looking at the effects on the poor being cast aside (my very first assignment). Each time I get a call from them, I know I’m going to give it my all.
It takes a lot of courage to share your most difficult struggles with a worldwide audience. William was quick to use the word “brave” when describing Erica, whose willingness to tell her story can help the millions of others trying to keep their heads above water by providing a relatable experience.
Meeting Erica was a pleasure. I know a lot of Americans are going through unemployment right now. I know that number is going to continue to rise. For her to share something so personal to the world is brave. It was an honor to meet her and contribute something to the bigger story of the coronavirus.
I spent about two hours with Mrs. Battle. We walked around her neighborhood finding different places to set the scene. I also talked to her about what she was going through being out of work and connecting to her to help her feel more comfortable in front of the camera.
Speaking with William, it’s easy to notice his optimistic, empathetic disposition, one he still manages to keep grounded in realism. Those qualities make him the ideal photographer for this kind of story, the moral of which might as well be “we’ll get through this together.”
I know the South has been hit hard by the virus. While a lot of cities numbers continue to rise, I think it helps that it’s springtime here. There are a lot of people taking walks, sitting on their porches, and taking in the sunshine. I can’t imagine being in a city like New York. My heart goes out to everyone there trying to isolate while living in such small spaces. We are very lucky in that regard. My takeaway from the story is that this is just the beginning and that we should all be ready to help each other once the dust settles. It will be a long time till we are back to where we were.
New York Times Photo Editor: Brent Lewis
See more of William’s work at williamdeshazer.com.
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