Like a lot of photographers I started documenting our empty streets and cafes in March of 2020. It was a way for me to come to grips with what was happening. The goal was to record my experience for posterity and show Covid-19 that I was not going to cower at home.
My plan was to get back to a real journalistic approach and use Kodak Tri X film, exposed in a Leica and developed in Kodak D76. For the most part this worked out ok. I had a 100 foot roll of Tri X that had expired in 2007 and my local camera store had packs of D76. Generally I use PyroCat-HD as my standard developer but I was trying to go old school. Everything went well until I noticed my M4 had problems with it’s low shutter speeds. I switched to my M5 and all was well. After awhile I got tired of using a rangefinder and switched to my Nikon SLR’s. For all the same reasons I dumped rangefinders for an SLR so many years ago. It took awhile to get the development time down to what gave me the densities that worked for my style of printing. I hadn’t used D76 for probably 40 years.
My adventures around town were for the most part pretty uneventful. I got hassled on our main outdoor downtown mall by the usual busy body types. The odd security guard had to be tuned in on what photographers rights really are in Canada and I got thrown out of our international airport. Fortunately on my second trip there. Hysteria was at play in most of these situations. Stressed people who had too much change to deal with and little factual information to fall back on. However the Calgary City Police constable I had to deal with in the airport was on one of the most glorious power trips I have ever experienced. Once I pulled out my cellphone and started to record him he changed his tune pretty quick.
As it turned out I had already contracted Covid19 in early January having caught it from our Asian neighbours who had just come back from China. They were both sick but I thought at the time it was just a cold caught on the airplane. They also said many were sick in China and people were dying. I have asthma and fall into the age group that medical experts have suggested are most at risk. I won’t go into the gory details but this sickness was the worst and most confusing I have ever experienced. At one point I thought I would have to be admitted to hospital but I fought through it and came out the other end. I am now what they classify as a “long hauler” with all kinds of weird symptoms. Nothing life altering, yet, but certainly vexing.
You have your own stories associated with these past 10 months. What I have found beyond the lockdowns, shortages of toilet paper and general hysteria is that Covid-19 forced us to reconnect with those that mean the most to us. There was no more endless shopping in the mall, no going out for meals, hanging out with friends and vacationing. It was lots of time spent with our significant partners, kids if they still lived at home and figuring out how to make it all work. People actually had to work on their relationships. Some got stronger and many blew apart. The massive unemployment caused by this pandemic increased the stress factor logarithmically.
A lot of us had to learn how to use Zoom, online grocery shopping, and relearn how to wash our hands. Wearing a mask was a sign you put others ahead of yourself. Or the opposite.
We are still in the midst of this unwanted interruption in our orderly lives. Hopefully a vaccine will be available in the new year (2021). Again those who take their own health seriously and the well being of others will take it. Personally I feel if someone refuses to take a vaccines they can exercise that right if they want but then they should pay the full price of medical care if they get sick from a disease that could have been prevented by taking the vaccine. Medical insurance both public and private is not an insurance against stupidity and pig headedness. Countries become strong when people pull together. Not when individuals pull away and only think of themselves.
When I started making images in March my plan was to showcase the emptiness of Calgary streets. Then in a few months when they have all this under control make images from the very same spots showing how life got back to normal. Well, we never got to that point. So this project is only half done. Even though our streets and building were empty, camping in Alberta increased by 5000 percent over last year. Everyone had to find a way to escape their homes and breath some fresh air.
I understand that the sales of winter sporting equipment is going through the roof. This sudden interest in getting outside and exercising will have I hope lasting benefits. The downside is those of use who enjoyed sparsely populated trails in non Covid-19 times felt a bit crowded out. Personally I felt like one of our bears who has to go further and further into the wilderness to escape humanity and the problems they bring with them.
I hope that when you read this blog times have already gotten better or at least your situation is a good one. Maybe by next time this year I will be able to complete my project.
Take care of yourself and those around you.