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Bob Shell: Meditations on Pandemics

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
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MEDITATIONS ON PANDEMICS

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I was reading an article last night in THE WEEK, my trusted weekly news magazine, about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. No one is alive today who remembers that pandemic, but the historical records exist, and the parallels to today are strong. Like the current Coronavirus that is causing so much havoc in the world, Spanish Flu was a novel virus to which no one had natural immunity. And, like today, weird rumors circulated. One was that the Spanish Flu was artificially introduced by German spies who sneaked into the U.S. aboard U-boats.

Some major cities in the U.S. shut down everything when Spanish Flu arrived, and did well. Philadelphia refused to cancel their war parade, which was held on September 28, 1918. A crowd of over 200,000 packed the streets and cheered. Within three days, every hospital bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Within a week 45,000 people were diagnosed with the disease and the city belatedly shut down. But the shutdown was too late, the damage already done. By the second week of November, 12,000 people were dead, just in Philadelphia! Bodies “were stacked like cordwood.”. Public health nurses walked into tenements and found whole families dead. Bodies were piled up on sidewalks after the morgue filled and shut down. Within six months, 16,000 were dead, and half a million sick in Philadelphia alone. By the time the Spanish Flu played out, more than 675,000 people were dead in the United States.

Researchers have found that cities that acted early and aggressively, quarantining the sick, and shutting down schools, churches, theaters, and other public places, saw 50% lower death rates. Milwaukee, which acted early and aggressively, had a death rate of only 0.6 %, the lowest of any U.S. city. St. Louis, which cancelled its parade had a death rate one-eighth that of Philadelphia.

This reinforces the fact that reopening the economy now, which Mr. Trump and most politicians seem to want, may be a terrible mistake.

A study published this year on the 1918 pandemic shows that “cities that acted early and aggressively to impose social distancing to limit the spread of Spanish Flu actually performed better economically after the pandemic was over than those that did not.” Fewer workers had died and the local economies bounced back sooner.

Here in Virginia, our Governor, who is a medical doctor, has faced intense political pressure for insisting on keeping restrictions in place until July, but I think he has made the right decisions, based on medical reality and not political expediency.

Some places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where restrictions were relaxed early, have seen rebounding infection rates. Others, like Taiwan and South Korea, who kept restrictions in place longer, have fared much better, with exceptionally low infection rates.

Where did this damned virus come from? The highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, says evidence that it came from the Huanan Seafood Market is “shaky,” and points to the nearby virology lab, which had already been criticized for inadequate protective measures, and speculates that the virus escaped the lab through poor waste disposal or in the body of an infected lab worker. If it came from that government lab, responsibility for this plague must rest solely on the shoulders of the Chinese government, which should be made to take full responsibility for the economic havoc it has caused.

Meanwhile, the King of Thailand is riding out the pandemic in a German luxury hotel, where he is ensconced with his twenty concubines. Must be nice to be a king!

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/nude-photography/

 

Posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, Men, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Science, Travel

Huiping Tina Zhong: Captivity

Photography and Text by Huiping Tina Zhong, Copyright 2020

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Captivity

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I have been following the update of the COVID-19 crisis since the very beginning when it was first discovered in China. Because I’m a Chinese international student, I’ve been worrying about my family and friends back home, although I did not expect that crisis to hit the US so soon and so hard, given that there were plentiful time for the government to execute precautions since the breakout in China in early January. I was in immense frustration, anger and sadness for the beginning of the social isolation period, yet now that intense emotions have passed, I’m increasingly aware of the fact that I’m not only physically trapped in my tiny apartment, but also am emotionally trapped in my lack of motivation and in my lethargy. Many have encouraged the public to face the current crisis with a positive attitude, yet it occurred to me that it was important to ponder negative feelings. Pondering and taking in these sensations in isolation is not only important for personal development, but also necessary for the progress of a society. Therefore, I shot these series of 24 pictures in my apartment to sit with the self that feels trapped.

When one is trapped, the positive thing is that one actually gets to spend more time with objects and self. As one observes the quotidian objects from different angles, the structures of these objects start to deconstruct. As their geometrical and linear structures get foregrounded, objects lose their identities while acquiring new poetic sensibilities. 

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About The Author:  Huiping Tina Zhong is a senior majoring in Art History at Bryn Mawr College. To access additional articles by Huiping Tina Zhong, click here: https://tonyward.com/iceland/

 

Posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, Health Care, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, Women

Tatiana Lathion: Silence Among Chaos

 

Photography and Text by Tatiana Lathion, Copyright 2020

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Silence Among Chaos

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It is spring in the year 2020. The world is silent, as the pandemic has forced the voices of the people inside. For me, the pandemic has sent me back to my hometown of Ponte Vedra, Florida. This is the place that saw me ride a bike for the first time and the place that I said goodbye to my parents four years ago as I made my way to Pennsylvania for college. I grew up here, saw the infrastructure grow over the years and experienced the excitement of southern hospitality. My house was the place I went to sleep in and every waking minute was spent outside in the sun. The only memories spent indoors over the years were during hurricane season in which the howl of the wind and rain were too dangerous to be experienced outside. 

During this quarantine, my experience of this town has changed drastically. The once crowded restaurants, boardwalks and beaches now lay empty. The people I interact with are limited to just my mom, dad, and dog. In this series of images, I focused on this concept of emptiness and isolation juxtaposed with the growth that occurs in the absence of humans. The beaches and nature seem unbothered by the lack of people while the existing infrastructure seems out of place with nobody to utilize it. While the lasting impacts of this prolonged isolation are yet to be realized, the moments of joy throughout this process have been truly rewarding.

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About The Author: Tatiana Lathion is a senior enrolled at Haverford College majoring in Political Science and Government. To access additional articles by Tatiana Lathion, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/barbara-kruger/

 

Posted in Affiliates, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, lifestyle, Photography, Science, Student Life, Travel, Women

Athena Intanate: Vacancies

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Vacancies by Athena Intanate, Copyright 2020

 

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Vacancies

I’ve never met a Bangkok this quiet – devoid of the hustle and bustle, the monotonous hum of vehicles, the faint smell of smog lingering in the air. I’ve never met a Bangkok where motorbike taxi drivers linger in their stations, idling, waiting in apprehensiveness for a customer; where roadside street stores don’t burst open with hungry lunchtime customers; where delivery drivers outnumber sit-in patrons.

And yet, can you ever truly hollow out a city?

Signs of life and normalcy exist even within the quiet: clothing still gets hung on lines; garbage bags still need collecting; restaurants still cook dishes that we all know and love. Even if I returned to a city that I had trouble recognizing, it didn’t mean that it was no longer the same city. People often tend to forget that we do not all have the luxury of self-isolating and self-quarantining in tumultuous times like this; for many, life has to go on. And life does go on, in the same cyclical cycles that it always has. Life grows; the absence of one thing sometimes leads to the flourishing of another.

In that sense, ‘Vacancies’ isn’t about true vacancies at all. Rather, it is about how perceived emptiness can sometimes actually be full of life, can still hold hints of existence and the what-once-was. Just like each individual photo is constrained in black, we too have become boxed into very selective views of our current world and lives. We’ve coloured in our blinkers, sometimes in bleaker shades than they should be. As I walked around the city creating this project, I came to realise this the most. That the memories of the city I love haven’t been lost – they’ve simply been put on a halt. The remains are still there but quieted, limited in their former capacities.

It simply waits for us to reach out once again, and press the amplify button.

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About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Athena Intanate, click here: https://tonyward.com/nan-goldin/

 

Posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, History, lifestyle, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Student Life, Travel, Women

Joy Bao: Inside Out

 

Photography and Text by Joy Bao, Copyright 2020

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Inside Out

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I have always considered myself as a homebody. At the beginning of self isolation this spring, however, I felt the longing to go outside desperately. “Home”, a word that represents warmth and comfort, also becomes a kind of burden that restricts our activity. After a few weeks into this life style, I began to get used to it and took it as a chance to reexamine my living space.

The dorm I currently live in is also my freshman dorm. At that time, I lived in the basement and the window in my room was higher than normal, resulting in significantly less natural lighting inside. I hated that room. I also learned how important, for me, the windows and natural light are. Especially nowadays, windows become the closest and most literal connection we have with the outside world. They frame in different views, make our indoor spaces less dull and more fresh.

In this series, I focused on the indoor spaces and the presence of windows. We walk pass all these windows everyday, but not every time we would stop and look outside. The views are always unique, depending on the time of the day, but also the different angles we have when looking at them. I also wanted to use this chance to observe the natural lighting that comes through windows. I found the backlighting in some of these pictures fascinating, as the effect that it creates resonates with my image of cinema. When I stand in a dark room and look at the bright world outside, it is almost as if I am looking at someone else’s life in another world. During special times like this, it is very easy to feel the disconnection with the world around us. While windows build and create the connection for us, they can also enhance that isolating atmosphere.

I also tried to capture the stillness and quietness in these spaces. Modern life seems to always involve a fast-paced schedule, but now is the time for us to take a moment and look at where we are. I hope this set of pictures provides the viewer a chance to reflect on living spaces and the relationship with the outside world, as well as a reminder for all the beautiful moments scattered around us that we have missed before.

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About The Author: Joy Bao is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Joy Bao, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/sensational-

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Posted in Architecture, Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, lifestyle, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Women