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.
Many workers are stuck between a rock and a hard place these days. The ones who have to go to their essential jobs in sectors like public transportation, food services, and healthcare are still seeing steady paychecks, but at what cost? And the people who have been let go from their jobs are mostly staying out of harm’s way, but their bills aren’t going to pay for themselves. Folks like Joe Renice need money, and as Winni Wintermeyer discovered, that means putting himself at risk to drive for Uber.
The pictures of Joe were taken as an assignment for the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. The writer has gotten a ride from Joe and interviewed him for his story about workers being affected by the shelter-in-place order. He took a portrait of himself, but the magazine wanted something better and called me. I arranged the shoot outside in a parking lot where it was easy to get the shots at a safe distance.
The shoot was about a half hour. I knew that he had another appointment, so I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. But I came prepared [because] the magazine wanted a picture where you can tell that it was taken in the Bay Area.
Winni, who was raised in Germany and first started working with Der Spiegel in 2013, has gotten used to getting quality images in a shortened time frame as a result of shooting for one of the world’s most well-known publications.
Growing up in Germany, that was my favorite news magazine to read. With quite a few of their assignments, I tag along with the writer and take photos during the interview. It’s not an ideal situation because it often doesn’t leave much time for me with the subject to take proper portraits, but I’m used to working fast. And I do enjoy learning more about the person I’m photographing and also see how the writer works.
In this case, Winni’s time with Joe was short for a different reason: the latter had a previous engagement. So, the freelancer had about 30 minutes to get shots that let the reader know right away the story was based in San Francisco.
I picked a parking lot that was pretty empty and that would give me options to place him and his car at different angles so I could capture a variety of backgrounds. Keeping a distance wasn’t too difficult, but, yes, I always like to have a chat with my subjects before I shoot and it felt odd at times to do that with that much space in-between.
The magazine ran one image of him wearing a mask. That very much illustrated Joe’s story.
I really feel for him and the many others who are out of work during this crisis. As we all know there isn’t much of a safety net in this country, especially for gig workers and the self-employed.
As a silver lining to this story, San Francisco has been good about the lockdown. Citizens started sheltering early and, as Winni notes, there’s lots of space in and around the city to get out and stay active. But, most importantly, people in the Bay Area seem to be listening to the quarantine orders. We can only hope this discipline saves lives and leads to the city being reopened so folks like Joe can have peace of mind with regards to getting consistent work.
San Francisco has been pretty compliant with the shelter-in-place order and isn’t the worst place to sit this out. The population here isn’t as dense as in other cities and there’s plenty of access to outdoor spaces to go on walks or exercise without being close to people. I’m actually enjoying riding my bike through empty streets and breathing in cleaner air. And I get to read more books and dig through my archives. If I’d have a paycheck coming, I could do this for a while longer.
See more of Winni’s work at 3am.net.
Explore our network of global photographers on our Find Photographers page!
Learn how WM is helping photographers during the pandemic on our COVID-19 Resources page.