COVID-19 Pandemic : Through the Lens
These filmmakers are bringing the world to you, so you can stay at home

May 7, 2020
  • Shweta Raman
  • COVID-19, Lockdown, Filmmakers, Photojournalists, Air-pollution, 2020

As the world tackles an emergency situation that calls for complete self isolation, the importance of the visual medium has never been more powerful. Providing context, giving insight and humbling us with stories and journeys of brave individuals who are fighting for our survival.

Equipped with just a camera and PPE, these filmmakers have taken to the streets to capture unique stories, which not only archive the ongoing events for the future but also capture the heroic actions of simple individuals on the frontline. As we scroll through these stories from the safety of our home, an effort of thousands of photojournalists and filmmakers across the world is underway.

We have curated a list of five such individuals, who inspire us through their visual stories at these unprecedented times.

1. Francesca Tosarelli: Francesca, a filmmaker from Turin covering Bergamo, Italy, one of the worst affected areas with COVID-19. While the government advised its citizens to stay at home, Tosarelli realized that there were key parts of the story that we’re going undocumented. She works closely with Red Cross volunteers who visit COVID-19 suspects. In her footage, Tosarelli captures the acutely ill as they struggle in the confines of their homes, unable to be admitted to the already overwhelmed hospitals.

“One of the fundamental aspects of democracy is press freedom. I am a journalist and filmmaker and I have a duty to consider how to ethically document the crisis. A month ago, in Italy, the only imagery circulating was that which depicted empty streets and people wearing masks. I felt part of the story was missing, and I took the time to examine how to cover it safely with the necessary protective gear, and to understand what would be the right time and location. The concern is always how you do it — the process — and how you tell the story.”

Here is a film made by Francesca inside the hospitals of Italy during the virus outbreak:

2. Shweta Bajaj: Shweta is a Delhi based documentary filmmaker and journalist who has been filming her personal perspective of the pandemic since day one. In her documentary, Shweta managed to capture the tension in the capital while hordes of migrants were leaving the city for their villages after the lockdown. She interviewed the Delhi government to understand how they can avoid the same disaster in the near future. She has also been filming wildlife on the streets of Delhi.

ShwetaBajaj

“In the whole universe, I was fortunate to be chosen to capture this special moment”

Here is a rare moment captured by Shweta of a peacock crossing an urban street:

3. Avishek Bhattacharjee: Avishek, a Dhaka based photographer creates a symbolic photo series that imagines the Covid-19 outbreak in developing countries like Dhaka. This is especially scary in Dhaka, as people defy the lockdown in spite of it being in greater danger due to air pollution, which is causing the virus to spread faster. According to Avishek, this is a story of the living, being dead.

“People are getting out during the lockdown and the situation is getting worse everyday, with the number of patients rapidly increasing too. We do not have proper infrastructure to deal with this yet. If we do not take the right action, we might end up in a grim situation like the one portrayed in my work, where there will be no social connection ever, people dying in the streets, and the city becoming a morbid place to live in. This is a story of the living being dead.”

Here are some images of the photostory shot by Avishek, in one of the most polluted cities in the world:

4. Tapan Pandit: Tapan is a filmmaker and photographer based out of Pune, India. The city being one of the prominent hotspots of COVID-19 in the country, it has recorded over 1890 cases. Tapan decided to step out on the front line regardless, to film the local policemen and hear their stories. Tapan and his crew approached the police with a storyline and what they wanted to do. The DCP said, “It’s a yes, as long as you promise to be safe”

“The idea of making this film really came from a larger thought that this strange time we are living in has to be documented.”

Here is the film that Tapan shot, showing us a unique glimpse into the work of our police force:

5. Kim Wolhuter: An award winning South African wildlife documentarian, known for getting up close and personal with his subjects- wild hyenas. He lives and works on a 60,000-hectare wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe with his wife and daughter. They choose a world with minimal human interaction and maximum animal interaction. During the current pandemic, Wolther is taking this opportunity to help people understand the possibilities of nature and connecting them with wildlife.

“Our lockdown here in the middle of the bush in Zimbabwe probably looks very different to most people’s new normal, so I hope I am using this gift of freedom out here in the wild to convey an important message.
In this time of crisis, I ask that you give up technology for that briefest of moments and connect with nature in whatever way you can, even just peering out the window. It’s a connection we’ve all lost and long for. Let’s reconnect with nature in whatever way we can, especially during this crisis.”

Here is a video of Kim taking us on a tour while closely connecting with infamous Hinas during this lockdown. He does this in hope to impact us all, in the possibility to truly connect with nature:

Today is a unique moment in history, in which the world we have always known has come to a standstill, and momentarily changed our way of life. It has created the circumstances for some truly unusual events, stories, and experiences to be captured and shared through visual imagery. We are inspired by all this research to go out and capture our own unique stories of life during the pandemic. If you happen to know or come across other filmmakers and photographers who have similar great experiences, we would love to know in the comment section below!

If you too are inspired to head out and capture life during the pandemic, here are a couple of things to think about that will keep you and others around you safe:

Do’s:

  1. Take the basics – latex gloves, masks, wipes, sanitizers, etc
  2. Clean your film equipment at the start and end of each day
  3. For interviews – try and use a hand mic and/or camera top mic with a wireless transmitter plugged into the bottom
  4. Use a boom pole from at least a metre of distance
  5. Hot wash all your hands, clothes, shoes on return from the shoot. If you suspect something needs to be thrown out, just throw it out.
  6. Use full protective clothing, perhaps a full-face cover helmet while entering a COVID-19 danger zone.

Don’ts:

  1. Avoid using clip mics on anyone other than colleagues
  2. STOP sharing earpieces and headphones
  3. Avoid touching any coins or cash, if possible
  4. After entering a high-risk location, you will probably need to quarantine for 14 days. Take the isolation seriously and actually isolate. Don’t go outdoors, or to see your family. Think about the safety of everyone more vulnerable than you.

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