Inside the outbreak: photographing England during Covid pandemic

Guardian photographer Chris Thomond lives in Manchester and spent most of the year under strict lockdown measures while travelling on assignment around the north of England’s coronavirus hotspots photographing life during the pandemic. He looks back on his year

Early on during the pandemic I’d seen a short film from the Philippines and read an extended blog from northern Italy, both featuring photographers dressed in hazmat suits, toting cameras housed beneath protective covers. Embedded with paramedics as they dealt with seriously ill patients, my fellow photojournalists sensitively showed doctors in sweltering emergency hospital pop-up units or portrayed intimate moments as spouses and other terrified family members bid farewell to their loved ones as they were stretchered from their homes, some for the last time.

Over the following weeks I was drawn to the frequent updates of the legendary photographer Peter Turnley’s remarkable black-and-white street portraits from New York (and later Paris, his adopted home). They showed exhausted medical staff outside trauma centres, lonely subway travellers, homeless wanderers and an assortment of essential workers and normal residents who were just about holding things together. The biggest city in the US rapidly became one of the centres of the outbreak and suffered a correspondingly large death toll. Turnley showed immense bravery to walk the streets each day and his empathic approach towards subjects rewarded him as he witnessed tender moments which he skilfully captured for history.

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