My COVID-19 Journey

During the time of the pandemic and my personal loss of my father, Izack Alkalay, from it, I used the camera to express myself and my feelings. In a way, this exhibit created itself – after being fully vaccinated I looked through my camera files and thought that these photos reflect a story that I would like to share. I’m sure that many people can relate to these visuals and see their own personal stories and experiences throughout this period of time reflected. I believe that the experience made us stronger and more resilient and we can leverage this force to change many things in our world.

On March 10, 2020 Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 23, Pine Manor College and most other institutes of higher learning in our state switched to remote, on-line learning. My family – my spouse, myself and our two college-age children – gathered at home, also hosting my daughter’s friend who came to quarantine with us. Five adults, each studying or working from home, in a three-bedroom apartment was a challenging situation – especially when everybody needed privacy and silence for on-line zoom sessions. The best place that I could work without destructions was outside, on our patio.

Watching the news was heartbreaking. Long lines in front of the hospitals in major cities like NYC, and the critical need of hospital beds and ventilators machines. The number of sick people rose every day by the thousands. There were over 2,000 deaths a day by April 6. People were out of work, with a disproportionate adverse impact on low-income jobs in retail, transportation, and hospitality.

On May 25, 2020 we watched the shocking video by Darnella Frazier, a teen who used her mobile phone to film George Floyd’s murder by Derek Chauvin, a white policeman who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. As he was dying, he said, “I can’t breathe” – and these words became a rallying cry at subsequent protests. Even with the fear of the Corona virus and the need to limit social interactions and quarantine, many people went to demonstrate and took part in ‘Black Lives Matter”.

To find refuge, I placed a bird-feeder on the fence of the patio, and soon enough beautiful birds came to eat and sing, and they were joined by squirrels and chipmunks. While working, I paused to take photos of that nature around me, a genre that I never explored before. In addition to the patio location, my husband and I often visit a community garden plot in Lars Anderson park, Brookline. During these days of limited social interactions, I discovered a new world as a photographer in those two locations. I know that backyard photography become very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. My love for bird watching started during this time of quarantine – for the first time, I took the time to look closely at birds from close proximity and saw all the details and colors and carefully watched their behavior.

Another thing that made me feel better in this period of sadness and fear was the kindness that people had for each other even with the social limitations. In many cities neighbors applauded the medical workers fighting coronavirus when they came out of their long shifts in the hospitals. One of my favorite projects, here in Brookline, was the Bignami children’s project to spread hope & love. They made their yard fence a place where people left cheerful heart shape notes for everyone to see. Every evening, while walking my dog, I enjoyed passing by their house to read these massages. It sure helped me – Thank you the Bignami family!

On November 24, 2020 I lost my beloved father who died from the Corona virus in Israel. My photography changed and I started to focus my camera lens on subjects that reflect my sadness. I started photographing broken trees, black metal poles, fences and empty park benches that elderly people will never come back to sit on. With the snow as a backdrop, my photos lost the strong colors that were a big part of my photography during the Spring quarantine period. My photos become monochrome and stood in contrast to the blue sky, the good heavens.

My father died just a few weeks before the announcement about the COVID-19 vaccine. When the pandemic started spreading all over the world, the pharmaceutical companies started to innovate a vaccine that would let us get back to social life and social gathering in schools and work places. On December 11, 2020, the FDA granted Pfizer-BioNTech the first Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for an mRNA vaccine. A week later, it granted another EUA to Moderna, also for an mRNA vaccine. Johnson & Johnson received the Emergency Use Authorization for their vaccine in January 2021.

During that winter, after the shutdown was officially over, as people were starting to get the vaccine, the safest place to gather with friends was outdoors. We started to go with our friends and our dogs on nature walks in the area. These hikes are one of the main sources of the photos in this exhibit, when I’m surrounded by the beautiful four seasons of New England.

On March 24, 2021 I got my second COVID-19 vaccine. On my way to the vaccination clinic on Longwood Avenue I suddenly saw that spring has sprung all around me – and the regrown part of this exhibit started.