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Behind the Mask

The COVID-19 pandemic created some obstacles in photographing people for this issue of the Bulletin.

Normally, I prefer to make environmental portraits with a small handheld Leica rangefinder, a camera largely unchanged since the 1930s that requires photographers to work closely with their subjects. While using a wide-angle lens, the camera usually produces a natural interaction between photographer and subject.

For this issue, the goal was to maintain safe physical distance while taking the photo, so I turned instead to a very large 400-millimeter telephoto lens normally used to photograph professional sports. Using such a lens allowed me to produce close photos while still maintaining a distance of 20 feet or more. The unintended result was a style of photos that is extremely compressed, showing individuals in a sense of isolation within their environment. Close, but still far away, reflecting the sense of unease that the pandemic caused.