Quarantine from the lens of a photojournalist

Quarantine from the lens of a photojournalist

Stuck inside, but looking out.
by Jennifer Ng / The Beacon

Seven photojournalists are suddenly trapped in the confines of four walls, a floor and a roof. They take walks where they can, but for the most part, they have been challenged by an unchanging environment. Before they were able to visually document sporting events with hundreds of fans, vigils and celebrations filled with emotion, special ceremonies, and the beautiful individual lives and stories of the people that made up their community. Now, they’re faced with the challenge of how to do visual-story-telling remotely as we navigate a new normal. 

Like everyone else, life has shifted abruptly and dramatically for these seven photojournalists. Although The Beacon continues to work remotely amidst the coronavirus pandemic, photojournalists face new challenges as they attempt to capture images that represent the stories we continue to write. They are faced with the grief that comes from what they have lost in the transition, the frustration that comes with helplessness, and the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next. 

Like everyone else, they have feelings about quarantine and this pandemic. Letting those feelings guide their creativity, each photographer embarked on their own unique mission to document the quarantine from a photojournalist's perspective.  

Sometimes it feels like the cold, unrelenting march of COVID-19 will never end despite our best efforts; that's a bleak future I hope we are not a part of.
by Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

Brennan Crowder


Quarantine is frustrating, not so much because I have to stay inside more than I’d like, but more because I have to sit and watch people who refuse to cooperate with the stay-home orders and continue to neglect the weight of their actions. This pandemic can’t be curbed unless we all take part in social distancing and smart, sanitary practices. It’s frustrating to be actively doing my part, yet feel so helpless. The globe is mustering the most collective industrial strength since WWII to help those on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, and all I can do is watch. I find it difficult to reconcile living in the epicenter of a global pandemic and wading through a seemingly endless stream of “for participation” assignments; the gargantuan weight of the reality at hand relative to the fluff that is online school strikes a cold, stark comparison that leads me to question my priorities in this time of global crisis.

Same assignments, different study space.
by Jennifer Ng / The Beacon

Jennifer Ng


Overall, I don’t mind the quarantine all that much — I’m not going to complain about staying inside where it’s safe, and where my bed and books are. It is both different and nice to be back at home and have home-cooked family meals. What I’ve seen in the few weeks since being uprooted from campus is that even though humanity is collectively facing a crisis, the world still continues on. We are at the peak of the semester, so we shoulder on, too.

Most of my time in quarantine has thus been dedicated to school work, as it was when I was on campus, so that much hasn’t changed. But at school, I had jobs, meetings, my dorm community and other responsibilities to balance out the work and add variety to my schedule. A week into my new routine at home, the school work felt smothering; to describe quarantine life in one word — “monotonous.” There are lots of papers to read and write, and projects to work on, but little else to think about. Keeping up my work for The Beacon has helped break up the work, giving me a much needed creative outlet. While I really miss being on campus, I am grateful to have a comfortable and safe place to be in with my family as the days pass. 

I cut off my hair.
by Molly Lowney / The Beacon

Molly Lowney


The first two weeks of quarantine felt like rain running down a glass window. The view outside is mostly blurred out by the water, with brief moments of clarity in between the sheets of rain. I’ve felt a lot of emotions at this time: grief, emptiness, a foggy mind, gratitude and numbness. Mostly I feel like I’m waking up from a deep sleep as I realize each day the gravity and impact that COVID-19 is having. Some days I’ve felt trapped. I cut my own hair three days into quarantining with my parents in a dramatic moment of cabin fever.

It’s hard to be apart from so many of the people I love. I can’t help my senior friends through the pain of losing graduation, or support my freshmen residents through their first year of college that has been cut short. I’ve tried to focus on what I can do: reach out to friends, do my schoolwork, and take care of my mind and body. I’m glad to be back in California, where I can watch the wildflowers bloom and talk to the trees when I go on walks. I know that here with my parents, I am doing my part and standing in solidarity with the rest of the world. For now, that’s enough.

Some of God's greatest gifts grow right outside my door.
by Taylor Ursulum / The Beacon

Taylor Ursulum


Being quarantined was not what I expected for my senior year of college. The hardest transition I had to make during this time was leaving my friends and independence behind, and moving back in with my parents sooner than I expected. I had plans to dance the night away with Ally and AJ at Rock the Bluff, visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival with my cousin in late April, and celebrate all of my achievements at graduation with my family and friends. I was definitely bummed that I couldn’t end my senior year the way I wanted it and I’m still grieving the abrupt end to my time on The Bluff. However, through these hardships, I found that there are small blessings around me that make this situation not so bad. 

Re-envisioning art, but from six feet apart.
by Lisa Erenstein / The Beacon

Lisa Erenstein


I am still trying to learn how to look at the world through rose-colored glasses — trying to have the best outlook and make the best of my newfound situation amidst all the uncertainties, unfamiliarities and anxieties. It has been hard to separate one day from the other, to not feel isolated from the outside world. It’s not like everything is happening or everyone is out living their lives without me, but there’s still hopelessness and fear of living the prime years of my life waking up to the same view outside my window. There is a helplessness in the limit of my power to change the toll that this global experience has on so many lives, each in its own way, while I’m expected to live out a “normal” day through online learning. 

I never would have thought I would have to live through something like this — something humanity in this day and age has such a hard time wrapping their heads around. We all seem to be collectively feeling the same inability to suddenly depart from the routines we were thrown out of and accept our new realities. I think people realized for the first time that not everything exists for us and that the natural world will continue to live on without us in it. As much as the fears almost overcome me, I have succeeded in finding unexpected positives. Quarantine has given me the space to rediscover and revisit some of my lost creativity and desire to express myself and thoughts through art.  

For people like me struggling with mental health, this pandemic has been a very difficult thing to process and cope with.
by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

Paula Ortiz Cazaubon


Unlike many of my peers, this happens to be the second quarantine I have had to be under. In 2009, the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic swept through Mexico. Classes, jobs and public gatherings were canceled and a stay at home order was put in place. So, when the news first broke about having to quarantine due to COVID-19, I was mostly unfazed by it. We’ve all done it before, right? I voiced this sentiment to my friends who immediately looked at me with a puzzled expression and pointed out they had not had to be placed like I had in quarantine for the swine flu. In fact, this was the first time they were hearing about the quarantine in Mexico and the first time they were experiencing being under quarantine themselves. 

However, this quarantine has been very difficult. As a senior, having my last semester end abruptly, having to say goodbye to friends I’ve grown close to over the past four years and the fact that commencement was canceled were all added stressors. The idea of entering the job market right now is terrifying to me. Watching the news about how the Mexican government is acting not only incompetent but also is choosing to be actively ignorant about the issue and breaking guidelines. It terrifies me and gives me crippling anxiety knowing most of my family and friends are there. 

As a person dealing with mental health issues, it feels even more difficult to cope with this situation and adjust to the (even if temporary) “new” normal. What I’ve learned these last few weeks is to grieve the way I need to and allow myself to feel sad about everything, regardless of how minimal it may seem. No matter how hopeless I might feel, the support from my friends and classmates has made every day a bit more bearable.

The setting sun illuminates both the beauty and the rugged, rundown nature of country roads in the rural community I call home.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Annika Gordon


As I sit back, dwelling for the thousandth time on how horrible this pandemic is, the word that keeps coming back to mind is the word “home.” When our university initially transitioned to online classes, I was determined to wait out the pandemic at home in Portland. I prepared to buckle down with food, my housemate’s dog as a cuddle-buddy and Supernatural binge-watching FaceTime dates with a friend a few states away. During the initial stages, I was still convinced that I would somehow find the job of my dreams in a new city right after graduation and create a new home for myself there. At the time, the last thing I thought I would find myself doing was moving back to my hometown. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Yet, here I am, back in this tiny town that just really doesn’t feel like “home” anymore.

This town fits funny on me now. It’s filled with people who pretend to know who I’ve become and who I pretend to know right back. A new city would have no expectations of me, but this town is waiting for me to fulfill the ones they have had of me for the last twenty-two years. It’s hard not to feel like a hermit crab that’s outgrown its shell. I have to remind myself that at least I am lucky to have the shell I have.

I’m uncomfortable in Ukiah and I know that discomfort will morph into unhappiness if I sit here for too long. For now, I’m desperately trying to stay sane, looking for the beauty in this valley. I would like to find peace in this place, but I can’t deny that I don’t fit right in it anymore. I’ve grown up and out of it. 

Amidst all the chaos in this world, I can’t help but focus on how home doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s not just Ukiah — the whole world has shifted. The world doesn’t feel like home anymore. We are all uncomfortable. We are all unhappy. Our home doesn’t feel like home anymore. And for that, at least, I think we can all grieve.

Brennan Crowder, Jennifer Ng, Molly Lowney, Lisa Erenstein, and Paula Ortiz Cazaubon are photographers for The Beacon. They can be reached at crowder22@up.edu, ng21@up.edu, lowney21@up.edu, erenstei22@up.edu, and ortizcaz20@up.edu respectively. 

Taylor Ursulum is the video producer for The Beacon. She can be reached at ursulum20@up.edu. 

Annika Gordon is the multimedia editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at gordon20@up.edu.