Photographing the pandemic year of 2020 has certainly had its challenges.
Most notably for me were the cancellations of so many events, particularly art and music festivals (like the Norman Music Festival and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival), as well as other public gatherings that offer the visuals of our culture that I love to capture in my photographs.
With most of us locked down for several months — and exercising social distancing when out — my photographing of people has been seriously curtailed.
I’m a prolific shooter. Last year, I pressed my camera shutter release 85,000 times. But this year? Only 40,000 clicks.
So although 2020 put a big dent in my photography, this difficult year did not stop it.
Plus, I learned a few things — like how to avoid my viewfinder getting fogged over, an unexpected phenomenon that has something to do with breathing through a mask with a camera pressed up against your face.
And how that odd smell of tear gas stays in your hair until you thoroughly wash it out.
I was careful not to intrude into that six-foot social distancing space. That’s a bit restraining for a photographer, because maintaining distance from the subject tends to result in disconnected pictures.
But despite social distancing, people have seemed more willing to express themselves in 2020.
Maybe we do that under the stress of virtual at-home schooling, job loss or isolation.
No, shyness was not a problem, whether it be the throngs that showed up for presidential candidates on the campaign trail or the thousand that stood under a hot sun on parking lot pavement to protest inequalities.
Or, the man wearing the white supremacist t-shirt standing on a street corner observing the marchers for racial justice who ignored him.
All that makes for good pictures, and the hope of making them drew me out of my lockdown, if only for brief periods.
Yes, I took some risks being there to make the photographs.
But as my learned college photography mentor Ken Rager always said, the key to making a good photograph is “f8 and be there.”
And so I was. At least some of the time.
But always wearing a mask.