Arts and Culture

Photojournalism students capture life in quarantine


SUMMARY: When COVID-19 disrupted the Spring 2020 semester schedule, SMAD students pivoted to document the circumstances under which they, or others they knew, were dealing with the pandemic.

The School of Media Arts and Design’s photojournalism course usually culminates with students producing final portfolios that cover a range of assignments they would encounter as professional journalists, from sporting events to public meetings to portrait shots.

But when Spring 2020 semester classes moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the events that students were scheduled to photograph were canceled. 

To comply with stay-at-home orders and prevent unnecessary health risks, adjunct professor Holly Marcus revised the course’s final project, assigning her students to produce photo essays about their experiences during the pandemic.

“Under adverse circumstances, often just using their phones as a camera, they came up with amazing images,” Marcus said.

The photo essays featured themes ranging from self-isolation to the changing landscapes of hometowns.

“Living with my roommates in downtown Harrisonburg, we have found ourselves trapped in our home with not much to do, other than to watch the storms pass and prepare with masks and gloves for when we need to leave for essentials,” senior Caroline Plashal wrote in her essay, “Quarantining as One.”

“Even though things are difficult now, we are glad to have each other’s company,” she wrote.

Tristan Lorei, photo editor of The Breeze, admitted to being “distraught” when the coronavirus suspended in-person classes, “as I crave human interaction.” Upon returning home, he found comfort in family members and close friends, and turned the camera on them for his essay, “Intimate Moments.”

“Each represents a small moment in time that felt huge to me,” Lorei wrote.

Tanya Faktes was in Seattle over spring break and stayed in the city after the outbreak. Her photo essay, “Seattle During COVID-19,” features an empty Pike Place Market, one of Seattle’s most popular tourist destinations, a line of people practicing social distancing outside of a Trader Joe’s store and the city’s Paramount Theatre marquee, which reads “This is Just Intermission. We’ll See You Soon.”

“These photos and stories will become a visual record of this global pandemic and give viewers a chance to see how a group of JMU juniors and seniors have adapted, adjusted and achieved a meaningful end to a surreal semester,” Marcus said.

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Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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