Anger and frustration can turn into happiness. A bad day can lead to a better day. We always try to be optimistic in any situation. When COVID-19 became severe, I was bored and alone, and all my thoughts were just trapped inside my head. I, myself, felt trapped. Everything was worsening: internships canceled, trips gone, friends disconnected. But even when everything seemed so horrible, things eventually became a little better. One by one, I started having tasks. My calendar started to fill up again with work and events and meetings and photo shoots. A pretty bad summer became a not-so-bad summer.

Looking back, being trapped inside my head was a time for thinking and healing. Now, even when things are still bad, I cherish every minute of work, of meetings, of shoots, because I know that there may be a time when I won’t have any of those things.

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JOSH LEE

Adaptation

As humans, we adapt. Anger and frustration can turn into happiness. A bad day can lead to a better day. We always try to be optimistic in any situation. When COVID-19 became severe, I was bored and alone, and all my thoughts were just trapped inside my head. I, myself, felt trapped. Everything was worsening: internships canceled, trips gone, friends disconnected. But even when everything seemed so horrible, things eventually became a little better. One by one, I started having tasks. My calendar started to fill up again with work and events and meetings and photo shoots. A pretty bad summer became a not-so-bad summer.

Looking back, being trapped inside my head was a time for thinking and healing. Now, even when things are still bad, I cherish every minute of work, of meetings, of shoots, because I know that there may be a time when I won’t have any of those things.

This March, I watched students of West Chester University pack their bags and hardworking business owners close their stores. I nearly saw the life of the town diminish. But I also watched our community come together in new and unique ways. West Chester has grown stronger through the emptiness.

My family has always held a strong bond, but prior to the pandemic, it was hard to catch all of us at the same time. With packed schedules and countless commitments, quarantine has allowed us to slow down and breathe. We have grown stronger through the emptiness.

Each day began to bled into the next, the same cup of coffee paired with the same plotline to the rom-com. From the inside, it felt daunting. From the outside, I could see the inner growth. I have grown stronger through the emptiness.

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JANE SHEVLIN

Growth

In my hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a lively and crowded Gay Street is a daily occurrence. This March, I watched students of West Chester University pack their bags and hardworking business owners close their stores. I nearly saw the life of the town diminish. But I also watched our community come together in new and unique ways. West Chester has grown stronger through the emptiness.

My family has always held a strong bond, but prior to the pandemic, it was hard to catch all of us at the same time. With packed schedules and countless commitments, quarantine has allowed us to slow down and breathe. We have grown stronger through the emptiness.

Each day began to bled into the next, the same cup of coffee paired with the same plotline to the rom-com. From the inside, it felt daunting. From the outside, I could see the inner growth. I have grown stronger through the emptiness.

He climbed out of the window in the middle of the night multiple times, going by himself to a local playground. Christian is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. He does not understand the restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I continued to bring him to the playground, even though it went against health advisories. When beaches and parks reopened, my friends invited me to go. I was so anxious with the amount of people on the beach. It was nearly impossible to maintain social distancing and most people, including myself, did not wear masks.

American exceptionalism shows through how people interpret quarantine and social distancing. We continue to ignore the rules set in place to hold onto a sense of normalcy through a pandemic our nation has not controlled or taken seriously. We make rules for ourselves and think we’re the exception. The United States is not prepared for normal economic activity or regular socialization, but we continue to ignore the risks of COVID-19 to keep some sense of normalcy.

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SARAH LEE

Hypocrite

My little brother, Christian, started to experience extreme cabin fever during quarantine. He climbed out of the window in the middle of the night multiple times, going by himself to a local playground. Christian is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. He does not understand the restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I continued to bring him to the playground, even though it went against health advisories. When beaches and parks reopened, my friends invited me to go. I was so anxious with the amount of people on the beach. It was nearly impossible to maintain social distancing and most people, including myself, did not wear masks.

American exceptionalism shows through how people interpret quarantine and social distancing. We continue to ignore the rules set in place to hold onto a sense of normalcy through a pandemic our nation has not controlled or taken seriously. We make rules for ourselves and think we’re the exception. The United States is not prepared for normal economic activity or regular socialization, but we continue to ignore the risks of COVID-19 to keep some sense of normalcy.

It has prevented me from properly mourning the deaths of two family members. It damaged my mental health and made photography hard for me. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and forget reality.

It felt like a horror movie, and I wasn’t ready to comprehend that. The world was turning upside down. When protests began, they terrified me but woke me up. It gave me something else to focus on and pushed me to take photos again. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t document those historic moments.

I felt like I had let go of so many emotions and was finally able to process the truth. It was painful to come to terms with, but, once I did, I felt solace.

Then came the light at the end of the tunnel: this feeling of being exhausted by the journey but able to look back and see how far I had come.

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ANNABELLE GORDON

Catharsis

This quarantine has hurt me in a lot of ways. It has prevented me from properly mourning the deaths of two family members. It damaged my mental health and made photography hard for me. All I wanted to do was lie in bed and forget reality.

It felt like a horror movie, and I wasn’t ready to comprehend that. The world was turning upside down. When protests began, they terrified me but woke me up. It gave me something else to focus on and pushed me to take photos again. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t document those historic moments.

I felt like I had let go of so many emotions and was finally able to process the truth. It was painful to come to terms with, but, once I did, I felt solace.

Then came the light at the end of the tunnel: this feeling of being exhausted by the journey but able to look back and see how far I had come.

I was content to lie in bed with my laptop, snacking and consuming as much digital media as my brain could handle.

I soon began to miss my busy life at school. A large part of what had occupied my time was photographing, editing and thinking about the photos I was going to take next. The photos I was taking were newsworthy; the story was already there, and I was there to document it. I enjoy this work, but as someone who wants to tell stories for a living, I sometimes yearned for a creative outlet where I was in complete control of the art I was creating.

This led me to fashion portraiture.

At first, I used myself as the subject because I was in full isolation. I found taking self-portraits to be extremely challenging but exciting. Being in front of the camera meant there was always a slight surprise when I went behind it. Later on, I was able to take photos of my friend. We had a wonderful time creating whimsical portraits in a beautiful place that we happened upon. I directed this photo shoot, but my subject had complete control of themselves. I now understand why art photographers like Cindy Sherman choose only to create self-portraits.

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LUCY MESSINEO-WITT

Opposites

For the first few weeks of social isolation, I was not inspired. I was content to lie in bed with my laptop, snacking and consuming as much digital media as my brain could handle.

I soon began to miss my busy life at school. A large part of what had occupied my time was photographing, editing and thinking about the photos I was going to take next. The photos I was taking were newsworthy; the story was already there, and I was there to document it. I enjoy this work, but as someone who wants to tell stories for a living, I sometimes yearned for a creative outlet where I was in complete control of the art I was creating.

This led me to fashion portraiture.

At first, I used myself as the subject because I was in full isolation. I found taking self-portraits to be extremely challenging but exciting. Being in front of the camera meant there was always a slight surprise when I went behind it. Later on, I was able to take photos of my friend. We had a wonderful time creating whimsical portraits in a beautiful place that we happened upon. I directed this photo shoot, but my subject had complete control of themselves. I now understand why art photographers like Cindy Sherman choose only to create self-portraits.

Sometimes you feel as though you don’t even know yourself. You're swimming through timestamps of memories that may or may not have happened, feeling lost. Lost within your own frames and your own life. I find my head floating away more often than I would like to admit. Falling between moments trying to find an anchor to the world. I have never felt a summer quite like this, with no sense of belonging or no sense at all. I have felt loss and lost during these months, and no closure has come with it. The world around us is ripping at the seams, and normalcy is nonexistent. Lost minds wandering back to campus soon. Lost deans and professors scrambling for safety. Lost chancellors clouded by money and greed. All heads chiming with a chorus of "Welcome Back."

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MADDI JANE BROWN

Lost

Quarantine has a funny way of melding time. Sometimes you feel as though you don’t even know yourself. You're swimming through timestamps of memories that may or may not have happened, feeling lost. Lost within your own frames and your own life. I find my head floating away more often than I would like to admit. Falling between moments, trying to find an anchor to the world. I have never felt a summer quite like this, with no sense of belonging or no sense at all. I have felt loss and lost during these months, and no closure has come with it. The world around us is ripping at the seams, and normalcy is nonexistent. Lost minds wandering back to campus soon. Lost deans and professors scrambling for safety. Lost chancellors clouded by money and greed. All heads chiming with a chorus of "Welcome Back."

The time was real, but it felt fictional.

I was in between: highs and lows, acceptance and hate, laughing and crying, everyone and no one. There was celebration and devastation, change and routine, life and death seemingly everywhere.

I struggled during quarantine, but people I know struggled more. These pictures are for them.

They are for my family, whose pain I could never fix but hope to lessen. They are for my grandmother, whose story I never got to tell but will never forget. They are for my sister, who deserved the world and more, but honorably settled for less.

They are for the Class of 2020. They are for anyone who lost a loved one. They are for anyone who has struggled mentally, physically or emotionally. They are for anyone who needs them, for people stuck in the in-between with me.

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ELIZABETH BILLMAN

In-between

March 13 started a period of time in my life like no other. The time was real, but it felt fictional.

I was in between: highs and lows, acceptance and hate, laughing and crying, everyone and no one. There was celebration and devastation, change and routine, life and death seemingly everywhere.

I struggled during quarantine, but people I know struggled more. These pictures are for them.

They are for my family, whose pain I could never fix but hope to lessen. They are for my grandmother, whose story I never got to tell but will never forget. They are for my sister, who deserved the world and more, but honorably settled for less.

They are for the Class of 2020. They are for anyone who lost a loved one. They are for anyone who has struggled mentally, physically or emotionally. They are for anyone who needs them, for people stuck in the in-between with me.

When I returned home for what was supposed to be maybe a two-week spring break from college, he began setting up a large desk in an already-cramped music room with two new monitors as a substitute for his office cubicle.

My dad is a business systems analyst lead at Northwestern University, and his team initially told him to prepare working from home from March 12 until April 27. He quickly adapted to the quarantine lifestyle in comparison to my mother, sister and myself. His morning routine shifted from hectic to flexible. He now has more time to walk and feed the dogs, do the dishes and watch the news without the time crunch of trying to beat traffic before work. His breakfast and lunch still contains maybe a nut or two, so at least his hearty diet hasn’t changed. Despite the drastic overall change in daily life, the workday remains the same — with the added bonus of blasting jazz in his new “workspace” and having a couple dogs curled up at his feet.

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COREY HENRY

Content

My dad, Randy, knew quarantine was going to last longer than anyone anticipated. When I returned home for what was supposed to be maybe a two-week spring break from college, he began setting up a large desk in an already-cramped music room with two new monitors as a substitute for his office cubicle.

My dad is a business systems analyst lead at Northwestern University, and his team initially told him to prepare working from home from March 12 until April 27. He quickly adapted to the quarantine lifestyle in comparison to my mother, sister and myself. His morning routine shifted from hectic to flexible. He now has more time to walk and feed the dogs, do the dishes and watch the news without the time crunch of trying to beat traffic before work. His breakfast and lunch still contains maybe a nut or two, so at least his hearty diet hasn’t changed. Despite the drastic overall change in daily life, the workday remains the same — with the added bonus of blasting jazz in his new “workspace” and having a couple dogs curled up at his feet.

An airport full of people wearing masks. Students participating in virtual or socially-distanced graduation celebrations. Empty rows of common store-bought items inexplicably sold out. When did toilet paper become so important in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Why doesn't anyone have answers? Is there a divine authority testing us now with the burden we must overcome? And in the midst of this inexplicability, is hope.

In this crisis, we have been given an opportunity to see through our problems and make a decision to create a better world. This crisis has given us an opportunity to share what we have with others. We have been given a calling to help our communities through engaging in positive health practices such as mask-wearing and social distancing. And yet, despite all the struggles that COVID-19 has produced, life goes on and humanity persists.

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HUNTER FRANKLIN

Surreal

Surreal. A word that describes all the incongruous, fantastical and unbelievable actions that have stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic.

An airport full of people wearing masks. Students participating in virtual or socially-distanced graduation celebrations. Empty rows of common store-bought items inexplicably sold out. When did toilet paper become so important in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Why doesn't anyone have answers? Is there a divine authority testing us now with the burden we must overcome? And in the midst of this inexplicability, is hope.

In this crisis, we have been given an opportunity to see through our problems and make a decision to create a better world. This crisis has given us an opportunity to share what we have with others. We have been given a calling to help our communities through engaging in positive health practices, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. And yet, despite all the struggles that COVID-19 has produced, life goes on and humanity persists.

As I live alone, I would have initially used one word to describe the pandemic: isolating.

It has been that but also productive. I have finished 19 books, eight TV series (with help from a live-texting friend), five knitting projects and two renovation projects — a bookcase and a record player. I've found my love for drawing again by drawing portraits of friends and illustrating quotes from the 92 books I've read since 2019.

My one “social” outing was to take socially-distanced engagement photos of my brother and his fiancée.

It has not been easy, and I have missed out on a lot, like celebrating my 27th birthday with friends. But I've enjoyed spending this time on the things that bring me joy and keep others safe.

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JAMIE KATHLEEN

Productivity

I've self-isolated since March 1. On my last day out, I took a hike in Highland Forest with a friend.

As I live alone, I would have initially used one word to describe the pandemic: isolating.

It has been that but also productive. I have finished 19 books, eight TV series (with help from a live-texting friend), five knitting projects and two renovation projects — a bookcase and a record player. I've found my love for drawing again by drawing portraits of friends and illustrating quotes from the 92 books I've read since 2019.

My one “social” outing was to take socially-distanced engagement photos of my brother and his fiancée.

It has not been easy, and I have missed out on a lot, like celebrating my 27th birthday with friends. But I've enjoyed spending this time on the things that bring me joy and keep others safe.

Whether it be student teaching, working in the hospital or getting degrees, we have all rarely been together. This summer was different.

One by one, we arrived at home with uncertainty on our minds and disappointment in our hearts. While it may have been relatively brief, I am grateful for the time spent with my family over these past few months. It strengthened the bond only siblings can have, while also annoyingly (and sometimes jokingly) reminding us of our differences. While it is true that a moment can only last for so long, I have the photographs, like insects preserved in amber, to last for my lifetime and beyond.

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WILL FUDGE

Reunited

Over the last few years, my sisters and I haven’t spent much time together. Whether it be student teaching, working in the hospital or getting degrees, we have all rarely been together. This summer was different.

One by one, we arrived at home with uncertainty on our minds and disappointment in our hearts. While it may have been relatively brief, I am grateful for the time spent with my family over these past few months. It strengthened the bond only siblings can have, while also annoyingly (and sometimes jokingly) reminding us of our differences. While it is true that a moment can only last for so long, I have the photographs, like insects preserved in amber, to last for my lifetime and beyond.

My parents legally divorced in December 2018. My dad will remarry in November 2020. My mom still lives alone. And I was split in half.

There was no pain when my parents separated, but there was relief when, seven years later, I left for college and became whole again. One set of furniture, one set of toiletries, everything in one place once again. No more back and forth, shared between two households.

That was until the pandemic sent me back to California. Once again, I was in the house where my dad lived with his new family. Once again, I was in the house where my mom lived with her depression. Once again, I was split in half.

I was to play the role of daughter, different from my part played over the phone from 3,000 miles away. I reviewed the script of mom’s house Emily and dad’s house Emily, familiarizing myself with the lines once again.

Now back in New York, I am whole once again, leaving my younger sister behind, still bouncing between two houses.

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EMILY STEINBERGER

Halved

We moved into two separate houses in November 2012. My parents legally divorced in December 2018. My dad will remarry in November 2020. My mom still lives alone. And I was split in half.

There was no pain when my parents separated, but there was relief when, seven years later, I left for college and became whole again. One set of furniture, one set of toiletries, everything in one place once again. No more back and forth, shared between two households.

That was until the pandemic sent me back to California. Once again, I was in the house where my dad lived with his new family. Once again, I was in the house where my mom lived with her depression. Once again, I was split in half.

I was to play the role of daughter, different from my part played over the phone from 3,000 miles away. I reviewed the script of mom’s house Emily and dad’s house Emily, familiarizing myself with the lines once again.

Now back in New York, I am whole once again, leaving my younger sister behind, still bouncing between two houses.

During this time of fear and uncertainty, I turned inward and began to photograph my family, specifically my brother. While all the people in these photos are considered family, some by blood and others not, these images speak to adolescence and the pattern of change that humans constantly need to adapt to. At the start of the pandemic, everything shifted extremely fast which brought a lot of anxiety. I especially feel drawn to photograph these feelings and thoughts because it has always been difficult for me to adjust to changes.

Photographing my family became a way to distract myself from everything else going on in the world and became necessary for me to stay sane. Family has always been the most important thing to me. It became a way to further preserve the time and feelings we shared together.

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LAURA OLIVERIO

Family

When the quarantine first started, I was with my dad, stepmom and little brother. During this time of fear and uncertainty, I turned inward and began to photograph my family, specifically my brother. While all the people in these photos are considered family, some by blood and others not, these images speak to adolescence and the pattern of change that humans constantly need to adapt to. At the start of the pandemic, everything shifted extremely fast, which brought a lot of anxiety. I especially feel drawn to photograph these feelings and thoughts because it has always been difficult for me to adjust to changes.

Photographing my family became a way to distract myself from everything else going on in the world and became necessary for me to stay sane. Family has always been the most important thing to me. It became a way to further preserve the time and feelings we shared together.

The subjects of almost all the photos I took were either nature or children because I had noticed a strong sense of resilience within both of them. Although nature is constantly struggling to heal because of harmful human activity. People had been ordered to stay at home as much as they could because of COVID-19. This meant that nature could finally breathe while continuously showing its resilience and striving to heal. The children in Yosemite were another sign of resilience during this pandemic. Children always want to meet new people or play outside with their friends. However, the children in Yosemite were only in contact with their parents and nowhere near other kids. It is unimaginable how difficult it must be for young kids to learn such an immense amount of self-control in a short period of time, but they were able to do it.

For the world to make it through such devastating times, it takes an incredible amount of resilience.

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ANYA WIJEWEERA

Resilience

During this pandemic, my family decided to spend time together in Yosemite Valley. The subjects of almost all the photos I took were either nature or children because I had noticed a strong sense of resilience within both of them. Although nature is constantly struggling to heal because of harmful human activity. People were ordered to stay at home as much as they could because of COVID-19. This meant that nature could finally breathe while continuously showing its resilience and striving to heal. The children in Yosemite were another sign of resilience during this pandemic. Children always want to meet new people or play outside with their friends. However, the children in Yosemite were only in contact with their parents and nowhere near other kids. It is unimaginable how difficult it must be for young kids to learn such an immense amount of self-control in a short period of time, but they were able to do it.

For the world to make it through such devastating times, it takes an incredible amount of resilience.

Because of its absence of noise and a sense of reality, quarantine has been a time of self-reflection for me. I’ve spent a good amount of time drawing while in nature. The camera doesn’t seem to be useful during a time like this. The quietness makes me rethink my creative process in a calm and original way. I’ve always looked at artists who inspire me, and I use them as a motivation to create. But what can you paint on a completely white canvas with limited resources?

For this project, I combined the calmness that nature brings me with the precious time I have to spend with my friends. I am proud of these works because I don’t see any other artists’ shadows except for my own. They don’t represent anything else other than what this time means for me and my own reflections.

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JESSIE ZHAI

Reflection

Poet Rudy Franscico wrote, “I am made of all the things the world couldn’t take away from me.”

Because of its absence of noise and a sense of reality, quarantine has been a time of self-reflection for me. I’ve spent a good amount of time drawing while in nature. The camera doesn’t seem to be useful during a time like this. The quietness makes me rethink my creative process in a calm and original way. I’ve always looked at artists who inspire me, and I use them as a motivation to create. But what can you paint on a completely white canvas with limited resources?

For this project, I combined the calmness that nature brings me with the precious time I have to spend with my friends. I am proud of these works because I don’t see any other artists’ shadows except for my own. They don’t represent anything else other than what this time means for me and my own reflections.