Strange how foreshadowing metaphor can be a single street shot and its accompanying caption. Quinn Dombrowski captured self-titled “Willing Prisoner” on Sept. 23, 2012, using Canon EOS Rebel T2i and EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. Vitals: f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, 240mm. The gas mask and woman bound are eerily appropriate illustrations for the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—pandemic spreading across the Continents from China.
As I write, more than 3,000 people have died globally from the virus, which has infected around 90,000 in at least 60 countries. But those numbers are likely low, because of unreported cases—for numerous reasons: Inadequate testing; influenza confusion; political coverups; and the extremely long, asymptomatic period when the infected are contagious. In the United States, six people have died from the disease in about 72 hours (four announced today)—mostly in a cluster within Washington State, where experts estimate unobserved transmission occurred for about six weeks. As such, the infection is likely widespread.
According to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the first line of defense for preventing pandemics is “voluntary home quarantine of exposed household members and use of face masks in community settings when ill”. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, which incubation period is up to 27 days, quarantine is typically 14 days without symptoms.
For about a month, I have searched for a photo that could capture concepts core to the pandemic and response to it—especially with millions of people quarantined, either by choice or compulsion (China and Italy are examples of the latter). Globally, protective masks are in short supply, in part because of hoarding, and many people are willingly imprisoning (e.g. self-isolation) to protect themselves or others. Quinn’s portrait, regardless of original context, is excellent illustrative metaphor for SARS-CoV-2.
Which brings us, finally, to discussing the photographer. About her shooting style, she says: “Few of my pictures are posed or arranged intentionally in any way. I try to always keep an eye out for the random beauty in the world, and taking pictures of it all keeps me sane”.
Quinn keeps two Flickr accounts. The other is “my brain-dump, my day-to-day blog in images”, she explains. The one with “Willing Prisoner” is a curated, “portfolio of sorts”. She joined the image-sharing service in March 2006 and regularly posts to her main Photostream. Yep, even in 2020.
Currently, Quinn works at Stanford University as an Academic Technology Specialist, with focus on “digital humanities”. She explains: “My background is in Slavic linguistics and library and information science”. And I find this personal tidbit delightfully fascinating: “I sew all my own clothes, and try to match my outfits to my meetings, classes, talks, etc. I’ve been sharing the joy of sewing through running Stanford’s Textile Makerspace“.
Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski