Social Distancing: Images of a Small Town | Maundy Mitchell Photography
Portraits • Headshots • Plymouth, New Hampshire

Social Distancing: Images of a Small Town

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Last week, after careful consideration and in light of the increasing severity of the Coronavirus / Covid-19 situation, I decided to postpone photo sessions, meetings, and classes.  My talks and exhibitions were canceled, and even a trip to London where I was to take three workshops will not happen.

My studio (next to the post office) in downtown Plymouth on a Saturday afternoon
My studio (next to the post office) in downtown Plymouth on a Saturday afternoon

 I am grateful to have a job that I feel sad to be away from.  I miss my clients and students. I miss creating. I miss serving people. 

My business, along with many others, is feeling the effects of having to shut down, but it is my civic duty. We must look after each other.  

Reading the news about this pandemic made me think of what I’ve read of the great Depression.  This project is inspired by the work of Dorothea Lange, a photographer who made the most famous portraits of the Depression.  

The most iconic image is called Migrant Mother.

Migrant Mother, taken by
Dorothea Lange in 1936

In the 1920s, Lange had a successful portrait studio in San Francisco.  In 1930, she began to also document the effects of the Depression, and was subsequently hired by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to document the growing crisis. She photographed people who arrived from the Dust Bowl to California, desperate for any kind of work.

Lange pioneered the use of the camera as a powerful catalyst for social change.  The people she photographed had been much dehumanized by the rest of the country.  What draws me to Lange’s work is her ability to convey a sense of dignity, creating a connection between viewer and subject.  

At this time in history, we have suddenly had to change the way we live.  Many have been forced to close businesses or lost jobs.  We’ve all been called upon to sacrifice by maintaining “social distancing”. 

Downtown Plymouth, New Hampshire, empty on a Saturday afternoon
Downtown Plymouth, New Hampshire, empty on a Saturday afternoon
Plymouth State University on Saturday afternoon
Plymouth State University on Saturday afternoon

In this new project, I aim to humanize the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.  Maybe we can look past our differences when we face a shared, global threat.  I’m looking for ways that this threat brings us together.

Though this project is unlike my studio work in most ways, it allows me to continue to create, to show people’s dignity in the face of hardship, and to help us look through each other’s eyes in order to come together as a community.

*For this project, I reached out to people via social media. I did not come within ten feet of anyone, nor did I touch anything near them.

Amy, Molly, and baby Iris in the doorway of their home, next to a worn American flag
Amy, Molly & baby Iris in the doorway of their home
Paul Wolfson closes his jewelry store to the public for the rest of the month
My business neighbor, Paul Wolfson, closed his jewelry store to the public for the rest of the month
Liz walked past the studio with her dog, Koa, after picking up her mail at the post office. She wears white gloves for protection, and her dog stands on her foot.
Liz walked past the studio with her dog, Koa, after picking up her mail at the post office
My mother sits just inside her garage with her dog, Gertie
My mother sits just inside her garage with her dog, Gertie.
Closed ice cream shop and book store on a Saturday afternoon
Closed ice cream shop and book store on a Saturday afternoon
Hand-written signs on the door of a clothing shop
Hand-written signs on the door of a clothing shop
Signs in the window of a hair salon
Signs in the window of a hair salon
Sign in the window of a market
Sign in the window of a market
Closed restaurants and shops in downtown Plymouth, NH on a Saturday afternoon
Closed restaurants and shops in downtown Plymouth, NH on a Saturday afternoon
Closed cafe on Saturday afternoon
Closed cafe on Saturday afternoon
Sign on barber shop door
Sign on barber shop door
Sign in the window of a Main Street shop
Sign in the window of a Main Street shop
Signs in restaurant window: "Now We Do Take Out Delivery"
Signs in restaurant window: “Now We Do Take Out Delivery”