In response to the COVID-19 virus, San Francisco, California and five other Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place order that began on 12:01 am March 17, the first widespread order of its kind in the United States. Residents were still allowed outside for exercise, provided they socially distanced from others. After the shelter-in-place went into effect I took long walks around the city for my daily exercise, often with my camera.
My work usually involves gaining access to communities and spending long amounts of time in close proximity with people. With the pandemic this became impossible and because I have an autoimmune disease I felt I had to be exceptionally careful. In the early days, when we knew less about how the virus spreads, I was reticent to even approach people to chat at a distance. It was such a strange feeling. For the first time in my career I was photographing people without attempting to talk to them.
On these walks, I ended up seeing my city from a new perspective. Many sites that were usually crammed with tourists were now completely devoid of people. Whenever I’d come across another lone person in the landscape, I was drawn to document it. Not speaking to them added an air of mystery to people, which I’ve never experienced in my career as a journalist.
Post-pandemic, many are talking about desiring to move away from cities, but these walks made me fall in love with my city even more. The bars, restaurants and bustling nightlife was gone, but the hills, the water and the fog provided escape. Whenever I felt restless or lonely I could take a walk, relish the landscape and wonder about the other lone people, imagining who they were and how they were feeling during this historic pandemic.