D.C. Under Quarantine: A Visual Diary

John Buckley’s Instagram is @tulip_frenzy; All images taken with the Leica SL2

I took my last black and white photograph before the soft quarantine began on March 9th. I actually went to a concert in a small club along the D.C. Wharf, because Wire — a favorite band for more than 40 years — are always worth it, and I was armed with hand sanitizer and instructions on social distancing. Still, though… my last outing, and what was I thinking?

Later that week, we announced to our office employees that we would work from home until the Coronavirus abated, or at least until the risks had diminished. A few days later, before sunrise, I went down to the Lincoln Memorial for MonumentHenge, that wonderful moment when the sun rises and shines directly on Lincoln’s face. It was dark when I parked my car. The guards were out in front of the State Department, but no one else was around, save for those dedicated workers, God bless ‘em, showing up before sunrise at the Federal Reserve.

The markets were in chaos, and people were beginning to die. But elsewhere, not here in this Washington, not yet. We were told to stay home, except surely you go out and walk in the morning, before sunrise, to take pictures. Washington, as always, was beautiful.

Later that same day, when teleworking, our new odd reality, had subsided, I returned to the cherry blossoms before the crowds arrived, as they did in force that weekend. There was a woman taking an iPhone photograph while she kneeled by the water, a mask on her face. It seemed emblematic of the moment.

Within days of taking that picture, the National Guard was shutting down access to the Mall, and those of us who live here were shamed, put in the same irresponsible category as college kid revelers on the beaches of Florida.

I kept going out — at sunrise, in the evenings — but carefully so, when people were distant. Photographs I posted on Instagram were, I was told, cheering my friends up, and I decided to keep at it, Leica SL2 in hand, shooting in color.

I’m going to keep doing this as often as I can, as we get through this terrible moment. There may be a time when I can’t go out, for a variety of reasons. Until then I intend — carefully — to amble along, camera in hand, a flaneur, an urban landscape photographer, intent on staying six feet or more from anyone I see. Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He died taking pictures. I’ll keep my distance.

You can see the progression of time by the blossoms, and as I write this, the tulips are out. One day I saw a couple dancing outside of the Kennedy Center, and I completely understood what was going on: they needed to get out of the house. They weren’t the irresponsible who couldn’t keep their social distance. You can tell they dance together from their shoes.

It is an awful moment in the life of our planet, our country, and soon, no doubt, my beloved D.C. Think of this, then, as a visual diary of the way things were as the sun kept rising each morning, but the progression of the pandemic kept us away from work, and one another.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep the associated gallery up on johnbuckleyinblackandwhiteandcolor.com. I’ll probably stop posting these color pictures when we get the all-clear sign, if ever we do, that we can go back to work in an office. For now, enjoy these fossils of light and time, as Moriyama might call them. I hope they both brighten your day and serve as a visual diary of Washington, D.C. in the time of the Coronavirus. Consider this a work in progress…

To follow this visual journal, go to our sister site, John Buckley in Black and White and Color.

4 Responses to “D.C. Under Quarantine: A Visual Diary”

  1. Angie Dickson Says:

    john these are so beautiful. They make my heart happy!

  2. tommydomingue Says:

    A wonderful inspection of life here in DC in the time of COVID-19. Thanks for sharing!

  3. While I always appreciate your photographs, something about these gave me great pleasure. Wonderful!

  4. […] the second half of March, I began to visually document the Nation’s Capital under the soft quarantine imposed by our mayor after Covid-19 began to […]

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