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Category Archives: News
Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
MEDITATIONS ON PANDEMICS
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!
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/
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.
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/
Photography and Text by Cindy Ji, Copyright 2020
The Night Playground: Where do Children Play?
The Night Playground series was born in the midst of the global pandemic outbreak. In the presence of travel restrictions and social distancing, the series of 24 pictures represents a glimpse of the worldwide situation that I experienced in Sejong, a South Korean city. Sejong is a city in progress, oriented to attract government officials and young parents. It was built to ease over population in Seoul, the national capital. So, I was able to witness the different ways in which people interacted with each other due to the outbreak of COVID-19. One of the major things that I noticed was the children. The city stopped bustling with children running and playing, and the playground was mostly left alone. Even though spring came and flowers were blooming, the city was still as if no one lived there. However, the hints of life and resilience of families, were seen in motion. Many families wore masks to walk their dog, play with their children, and to go for a short walk at night to a get some fresh air while being safe. The unprecedented global outbreak has altered the ways in which we live at the moment. I hope all of us to be safe and to beat the outbreak all together.
Cindy Ji will be a senior in the fall of this year at Bryn Mawr College. Class if 2921. To access additional articles by Cindy Ji, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/skoglund/
Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020
In Memoriam: Robert Asman 1951 – 2020
When I heard the news the other day that Bob Asman passed away I was sad but not surprised. Bob had been seriously ill for several years as he experienced a slow but steady decline due to multiple health problems. In recent months he was receiving hospice care at home, so for the friends that were in touch with him, we knew it was just a matter of time. Our last conversation took place by phone on February 11th of this year. He sounded upbeat and hopeful but yet resigned to the grim reality he faced each day the nurse came to his home to take care of his most essential needs.
We talked about photography of course and our shared experiences reminiscing about friends that we had in common in the Philadelphia photo community over the years. I didn’t think at the time that it would be our last conversation. We had made tentative plans for an in person visit when the weather finally got better later this spring. The final correspondence from Bob came in an email chain where he expressed it was kind of comforting knowing that he would soon pass during a pandemic. I suppose in his mind he was comforted in some way and felt less isolated by that reality.
The final parting words from Bob, “What an honor it is to die during a pandemic episode. I think it was deliberately planned so I wouldn’t have to die alone….instead with thousands of others.”
And so he finally did pass, leaving an incredible body of work behind for the living to enjoy until the end of our lives. Bob was one of the finest photographers I’ve ever come to know, a great person, a loving father, and the best alchemist the world has ever known. Farewell my friend. Bon Voyage.
To access additional work by Robert Asman, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/robert-asman-the-alchemist/