The pandemic from the people’s perspective

By Activist Jasmin O’Hara
People of The Pandemic is a global collective highlighting the humanity that exists behind the headlines of Covid-19. We use portraits and stories to amplify the voices of everyday heroes in our society, who we often take for granted: healthcare workers, supermarket workers, delivery drivers, cleaners, first responders… the people risking their own health to continue servicing our needs.
Photograph credit: Sequoia Ziff

“I’m trying to explain to customers, you don’t need 10, 15, or 20 of one thing. Leave a few on the shelf for another customer, for people who can’t bulk buy, or who might not have the opportunity to get here at eight in the morning. They look you dead in the eye like it doesn’t make a difference.”

Jarvis’ words got us thinking. How are people like him coping during this time? Those still having to turn up to work each morning, unsure of the consequences. Would these voices be included in this historic crisis? We returned the next day to take his portrait and listen to his story, along with other workers and customers from the supermarket.

After sharing his words online, we wanted to tell more stories, but new quarantine restrictions made it increasingly difficult to meet more people. So we put our heads together. Suddenly we noticed how many key workers were coming to our door. Our postman. The delivery drivers. The bin men. The heroes we never knew we needed. We captured their portraits with a rule in place to ‘document at a distance.’

The first bridge we built internationally was to Los Angeles, where our photographer friend Al captured an incredible portrait of an ICU nurse named Brittni. Her story represented the people working on the frontline of the pandemic. The healthcare workers, experiencing this in full force. She said, “I didn't think it would really affect me emotionally but with my first Covid patient, when I left the room it was hard to hold back the tears. He was 50 years old and had no existing health conditions.” It was harrowing to hear Brittni’s story, but her words sparked inspiration.

Photograph credit: Al Noelle Walter

COVID-19 is a global pandemic and it was important we reflected that in our work.

Through Instagram, we connected with photographers and creatives from lots of different countries, and soon enough, a global collective of photographers was forming and gaining momentum. Our WhatsApp group was buzzing with new portraits and stories from every continent, bringing new perspectives and introducing more people to participate in the movement. Our multinational team now has charters from Estonia to Taiwan, and Melbourne to Yangon.

But it doesn’t stop there. Our ambitions for the future involve exhibitions and publishing a People of the Pandemic book, as well as telling the stories of people when the pandemic is over. Those who lost loved ones, those who lost their jobs, or the scientists who helped to find a cure.

How do we want people to feel when all this is over? That through an unprecedented, uncertain period of our lives, it was supporting one another that got us through.

People of the Pandemic exists to set the tone of a new chapter, a culture where everyday people become our new role models, because they’re the ones who got us through this crisis.

Photograph credit: Sequoia Ziff
You can follow photos from the People of the Pandemic initiative on Instagram @peopleofthepandemic or via www.peopleofthepandemic.uk