The COVID-19 pandemic has, for many of us, revealed the resilience of the people in our lives. Within the Photography Without Borders community I count myself a part of, I learned about the strength of the students and instructors we work with to break barriers of perceived access to the arts.
Our students, many of them Latino students from Kensington, Olney, and North Philly, live along the Route 47 bus route. We asked them to document their life in lockdown.
Initially, the younger students were apprehensive about taking photos of themselves and their families. After a few months in quarantine, they relaxed and found solace in the activity. We may have started our weekly Zoom sessions with a litany of frustrations over being bored, feeling stuck at home, and unsure of the future. However, in the following weeks, they would remark at how much fun they had taking photographs in their bedrooms, out the back window, and in the surrounding blocks where they live.
Their work captures the range of emotions of life in lockdown, from their perspective as young Philadelphians.
The following photographs originally appeared in Motivos — a bilingual print and digital magazine.
Yanilda Recio, Olney
“The moments in which I sit down to think about what photos to take and how to do it are for me, a way to escape reality and carry out my ideas. This is one of the things that makes me happy in these difficult times… an escape from reality and a way of expressing myself in different ways by letting my imagination fly with the little I have.
Los momentos en los que me siento a pensar que fotos tomar y cómo hacerlo son para mi como una forma de escapar de la realidad y llevar a cabo mis ideas son una de las cosas que me hacen feliz en estos tiempos difíciles
Ha sido para mí como un escape de la realidad y una forma de expresarse de distintas maneras dejando volar mi imaginación con lo poco que tengo.”
Leslie Brito-Nuñez, Olney, Community College of Philadelphia
“We really did not have a clue that we all would spend time looking out of our windows. We have the desire to break through the reflection and just live our ‘normal’ once again… to look back in time and reminisce on how we could go outside carefree instead of thinking of the risks. We gotta get used to our new ‘normal’ and let the past go. That’s what it looks like.”
Leanise Gonzalez, Fairhill
“The reason I took this picture is because of all the stuff that’s going on in this world with the corona virus and all the poor people dying from it. Also, so when people look back at this I want them to know and remember what was happening in 2020.”
Destiny Seck, Frankford-Wissinoming
Dayanara Rodriguez, Olney
“We are the lights of the universe. Every single light is important and has a place in this world, no matter how dim or bright. During these times we all need to give each other a little light. Show each other kindness and love. We can get through this together.”
Celina Seck, Frankford-Wissinoming
“For as long as I could remember, other things came and went, but my dad’s bar stood steadfast. Life brought unexpected changes, but I knew that at the end of every day, I could return home.
And then, out of nowhere, all of this came into a shuddering halt. The silence, so unlike the familiar music, raucous laughing, and clinking glasses made it seem as if everyone collectively gasped, taking a deep breath in anticipation for what would come next. This was new to me. At night I had trouble sleeping, because I was so used to the endless cacophony of noise.
Honestly, I don’t know what brought me to take this picture, but in my mind, it captures the silence perfectly.”
Jessie Seck, Frankford-Wissinoming
“I feel like my most recent pictures have a connecting theme: The best things happen when you least expect it. In this picture, you can see my friends’ feet at the top and a little way below them, you can see their reflection. When I say ‘when you least expect it,’ I mean that I wasn’t really paying any mind to the reflection when I took the picture. It was only after developing the roll of film that I realized how amazing the picture was. Which is why, this picture will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Rey Sierra, formerly from Olney, now living in Arizona
“In all honesty, this picture is not a capturing of a moment but a memory of a time before these times. It’s a memory of a young kid on his way to meet with a loved one and just decided to STOP and turn around to take a picture of the STOP signs right before continuing on his way.”
Mirielis Almodovar-Alamo, West Oak Lane
“An empty room. Not a single person in sight, only air. Usually it would be bustling with people. The room filled with laughter and excitement. Everybody crowding around the cake to say happy birthday to the special person, on their special day. But here, there is absolutely no one. Solely, a lonely birthday cake.”