Take pictures of empty places
As international travel stopped and governments asked everyone to stay at home, iconic streets and public spaces were emptying around the world.
Between March and June 2020, a wave of pandemic photographs – by professionals and more ordinary people – captured haunting images of how lives were interrupted.
These photos of empty places – once filled with people – reflect the sense of isolation and loneliness felt by many who struggle to understand how the world has suddenly changed.
New York, New York, United States
Photographer Andrew WernerThe busy schedule of events usually involves a mix of studio time and social events, including galas. “Quarantine put an end to it all, and my usually animated background became a blank frame,” he says. At first it seemed that there was nothing to photograph. Then he set out to document footage of New York City, the place he calls home, where “an estimated eight million people have been appeased by circumstances and connected in solitude.”
“During the day, I photographed vacant Fifth Avenue, inactive Grand Central Station, empty subway platforms, abandoned intersections, uninhabited historical monuments and a motionless Central Park. At night, a deserted Times Square, quiet Broadway theaters and unoccupied restaurants, ”he says.
Werner’s collection of pandemic photographs, called Places without faces is featured on its website. His earlier work has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, Forbes, Vogue, and City Country as well as international publications, and appears on Instagram.
The lively Casino Square is considered the heart of the Principality of Monaco, as well as Monte-Carlo. Often home to live events, the square is usually packed with locals and visitors who come here to people-watch or contemplate the luxury cars parked around the perimeter. Surrounded by the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, the Café de Paris, it also houses a new shopping area, One Monte-Carlo.
A major renovation of the square began in January before the pandemic. These images of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, shared by the Monaco Tourist Office, were part of a shoot on June 2, 2020 that marked the official unveiling of the revamp of the legendary square.
Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa
Singita Sabi Sand is a private game reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Under normal circumstances, guests arrive and depart from the airstrip, so it is unusual for a pride of lions to have the opportunity to sleep quietly on the airstrip. But during the pandemic, this image of a male lion among a group of lionesses was captured on a daily commute.
The leopard in the second photo has taken up residence in the Singita Arrival Lounge, where guests await the arrival of their bush planes. The photos were taken in April and May 2020.
When hotels and resorts closed and flights to the international airport were canceled, Matt Adcock from Playa del Carmen, Mexico watched its photography business fall: destination weddings and other festive events have been canceled. In April 2020, he chartered a small plane to fly over the Mexican Riviera and photographed the coastline from above, without the usual crowds of tourists.
The ruins of Tulum (above) are the third most visited archaeological site in Mexico (after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza), visited by 2.2 million people in 2017. When all archaeological sites in Mexico were closed to the public during quarantine, Adcock was able to capture these unique images. (her photos have already been featured on Forbes.com.)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
After staying home for weeks, travel blogger and photographer Jon miksis ventured outside one day in May 2020 to take pictures of Boston to share with its travel communities on Instagram and TIC Tac. He says that with “few cars on the road and more tulips than people, the city was incredibly peaceful and serene as uncertainty and chaos still hung in the air.”
The photo above captures the Boston Public Garden, which typically draws large crowds in the spring and summer, when people come to picnic and stroll through the park. The other image shows the city’s iconic brick buildings, bathed in golden hues, without the crowds.
Vito Valentinetti is a full-time photojournalist. In the past five years, he has covered 77 music festivals in 33 countries for Music festival assistant. He had planned to stay two weeks in Spain to travel with his parents and was heading to Estonia, when his flights were canceled. As a result, he ended up staying in Malaga for over 100 days.
For much of that time, people weren’t allowed to leave their homes except to shop for groceries, so he took the photo of the square on his way to the grocery store. The airport photo was taken on March 12, 2020 when he went to meet his parents.
Jermaine Amado is a Denver, Colorado-based portrait and wedding photographer. In early March, before the lockdown restrictions were imposed, he decided to fly to Lisbon, where his girlfriend is a tour guide.
Because Lisbon is always packed with people, he was eager to commemorate photos of empty places. Even on Portugal Dia da Liberdade (Liberty Day), a national holiday that falls on April 25, people celebrated on their balconies rather than on the streets.
Saint Augustine, Florida, United States
In spring and summer, the streets and beaches of St. Augustine are normally teeming with visitors who come to enjoy its incredible architecture and pristine beaches. The above images were posted on social media by Florida’s historic coast (St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau) to remind visitors to come back when everything is safe.
The beaches in the area were closed until the end of April, and then only open in the morning. At present, they have reopened full time.