CAPTURE THIS MOMENT II: A Group Photo Essay Documenting This Unique Time of the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

Nancy Kaye, Instructor and Curator

Participants: Bonnie Baron, Lance Bocarsly, Debbie Cohen, Mike Gaines, Jeff Gottesman, Nancy Kaye, Anna Reyner, Shirah Rubin, Ralph Scott, Sharon Swerdlow, Robin Venturelli, and Harley Wishner

The workshop, lead by Nancy Kaye—professional photographer, educator, and curator—served not only as a creative outlet for students, but also as a way of sharing experiences and connecting with others in an empathetic way. You can join the next workshop, starting October 12. Register here

Organized by the Soraya Sarah Nazarian Program in Fine Arts
Chief Curator, AJU: Dr. Rotem Rozental

Participants in August’s photo workshop represented this period of the pandemic as one of uncertainty, division, and contrasts, as COVID-19 virus cases ebbed and flowed, and more lives were lost.

Some photos display humor spotted on neighborhood walks while others depict economic hardships of businesses and distress resulting from job loss.

Although many have abundance and security — and gratitude — increased homelessness and food scarcity has triggered a wave of people seeking to help and prompting food distribution lines in unlikely communities.

Uncertainty remains about school openings, social justice concerns endure after nationwide protests, and Black Lives Matter signage is seen outside some homes and businesses.

With outdoors deemed safer, streets are closed to traffic to expand outside dining, while other activities such as concerts rely on a car culture.

Self-care needs are resourcefully met, masks and social distancing remain a focus in protecting us, and compliance continues to be controversial.

As summer ends, the presidential race begins in earnest with the Democratic and Republican conventions being—well, unconventional. The tenor of uncertainty of this moment is capped by the extreme polarity of the political race.

To view the June 2020 Exhibition, click here.
To view the July 2020 Exhibition, click here.

Discomfort for Peace of Mind, Mike Gaines, August 13, 2020, Los Angeles

Dr. Robert Newman of American Urgent Care of Tarzana performs the nasal probe for a coronavirus exam. Although an effective diagnostic tool, it’s something I would rather avoid if at all possible!

Swab Analysis, Mike Gaines, August 13, 2020, Los Angeles

Dr. Robert Newman of American Urgent Care breaks off end of nasal swab stick after obtaining a mucous sample. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for the medical teams on the front lines risking their health daily to protect ours!

At Last, Robin Venturelli, August 9, 2020

My daughter went 6 months without having her hair cut or dyed. As a treat for her, I was able to arrange for my hair stylist to come to my apartment and work on both of us on my balcony. My daughter sighed with delight, “At last!”

Turquoise Toes, Robin Venturelli

My husband and I are both working from home, and it’s been challenging to share space in our small apartment. We’ve learned that being patient and kind to each other goes a long way towards getting along. With nail salons closed, my husband offered to give me a pedicure. I ordered some nail tools online and a few days later we were ready to proceed. He said it reminded him of working on model airplanes like when he was a child.

Can You See Me Smile?, Sharon Swerdlow, Los Angeles

I am one of the more than 38 million people in this country who struggle with hearing loss. I rely greatly on non-verbal cues in my interpersonal communications. Wearing masks not only muffles the sound quality coming from the speaker, but also takes away my opportunity for lip-reading and “reading” facial expressions that are critical in my aural comprehension.

Compassionate Caregiver, Debbie Cohen, August 13, 2020

As a first-time physical therapy patient, it was strange and uncomfortable to be on the table, gazing up at this beautiful, young, and compassionate woman hidden behind her mask, yet at the same time being able to see her care and compassion in the twinkling smile in her eyes was comforting.

Passing the Time of Day, Sharon Swerdlow, August, 17, 2020

Staying fit has taken on a whole new meaning in the time of COVID-19. Unable to play basketball with friends or work out at the gym, my son Ari has figured out new ways to stay in shape. Ari is gaining the double benefit of exercising his legs along with getting his daily dose of vitamin D, “blind” to the clutter and chaos of the backyard around him.

Outdoor Rowing, Jeff Gottesman, Santa Monica, August 2020

Gyms are forced to move to the outdoors, this one occupying the parking lot of the business across the alley. It was the only way they could stay open and the lot was graciously donated by the business to give them a shot at not shutting their doors permanently. The owner tried to convince me to sign up, but I resisted.

Playground Closed, Lance Bocarsly, Ventura, CA, August 14, 2020

As a child, I spent much of the summer at the beach, building sand forts (with moats, of course), jumping in the waves, tossing a ball and, well, fighting with my brothers.  To avoid viral spread, the county closed the children’s playground at the beach, and covered it with plastic netting to keep all away.  Alas, during the summer of 2020, children will have go back to a more ancient form of beach fun.

Rainbow Connection, Bonnie Baron, San Diego

This picture, probably painted by a young child, got my attention. It was hung in a garage window. I navigated some bushes to see it more clearly, and when I did, a smile appeared on my face.

Simple Pleasures on a Staycation, Shirah Rubin, Boston, MA, August 6, 2020

Maintaining safety, yes, even while drinking a refreshing cold drink. Sweet surrender to our new reality.

Apple Stand, Bonnie Baron, San Diego

On a morning walk, I spotted a box and a sign that was difficult to read. I walked closer to see what it said. Clearly it was written by a child wanting to get her/his message out to the neighborhood.

Necessities, Debbie Cohen August 2020

What has become our reality of what we need for our daily lives hit me hard with this stark black and white signage. The contrast of the red color adds a sense of urgency to the sign.

Prepared or Paranoid, Robin Venturelli

My husband, who has pre-existing conditions, wants to visit his eighty-seven-year-old mother who has congestive heart failure. She lives on the east coast and he lives on the west coast. In preparation for the upcoming five-hour flight, he ordered this mask. He’s been wearing it around the house to get used to it.

Masks, Shirah Rubin, Boston, August 6, 2020

A shop window in Wellesley displays the elegant side of masks. Just as a purse holds our essentials now our masks are our new purse.

Entry Hall, Robin Venturelli

I’ve accumulated so many masks as fashion accessories that I decided to place a decorative “mask” bowl on my entry hall table. I like the juxtaposition of the happy fiddler in the painting above the bowl with items in the bowl to protect me from dying. A friend said, “It’s symbolic for fiddling while Rome burns.”

Some Do Care, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles

Our healthcare workers risk their own health and lives to treat the infirm. As these young ladies pass a medical facility, they unwittingly exhibit the extremes of what we should and should not do to minimize risk to healthcare workers and to ourselves.

Chin Protection, Robin Venturelli

One of my “Covid pet peeves” is walking by someone who is wearing their mask on their chin. I don’t understand if they think they are sneaky or if they just can’t be bothered to wear it correctly when outside. Either way, it makes me scared.

Breezing By, Harley Wishner, Beverly Hills, August 23, 2020

Even now it appears that reminders are still necessary for us to do what is in our collective best interest. It is one thing to post a sign or read a sign. It is quite another to care enough about each other so that perhaps one day they will no longer be necessary.

Mandatory, Shirah Rubin, Boston, MA

The Brookline neighborhood of Boston posts an official notice that masks are mandatory.

Setting an Example, Bonnie Baron, San Diego

On a neighbor’s front lawn there are three ceramic rabbits that usually blend into the rocks—but less when geared up for COVID.

Uplifting Faces, Lance Bocarsly, August 15, 2020

Who can walk past colorful flowers and ladybugs in the summer sun without feeling the joy of nature? A neighbor regularly leaves this photo stand-in in front of his house for all to use. My masked wife and son safely shared their uplifting love for California sunshine during the pandemic.

Mask Update, Lance Bocarsly, August 15, 2020

Quarantine through the pandemic has been difficult for all. A neighbor’s garden decorated with metal sculptures offered this whimsical update to one sculpture, with a mask added to protect this permanent installation.  When all else fails, laugh at your troubles.

Stay Safe, Nancy Kaye, Torrance, August 2020

A playful reminder to stay safe by wearing a mask adds some levity to the new reality that has engulfed our world since March when the World Health Organization declared the pandemic.

Visiting, Debbie Cohen, August 2020

I visited with the mother of a dear friend who has been diligently isolating since March. How sad it was to have to keep our distance, unable to hug and engage in normal conversation where we could sit next to each other and see each other’s full faces, facial expressions and not have to speak extra loud to be heard. This photo is a stark reminder that no matter how far we are from the ones we love, the love endures, mask and all.

Parrot Convalescence, Anna Reyner

One of our 30-year-old parrots had a heart attack during Covid and my husband slowly nurtured him back to health. Taking him to the vet for his initial assessment was a huge ordeal with the pandemic in place. Vet hospitals are as backed up as human hospitals at this time.

Safe Space, Robin Venturelli, Santa Monica, August 13, 2020 

When I enter my building lobby, I feel safe. The front desk staff is always welcoming as they stand behind their new plexiglass window. I know the common areas are sanitized and the rules are posted. I have adjusted to my “new normal.”

Separate Lives, Debbie Cohen August 2020

Empty tables, no dishes, no silverware, no people, but the partitions are up and ready for when we return.

Open for Business, Sharon Swerdlow, August 18, 2020

Once a bustling area, Santa Monica Place now looks more like a ghost town. Most restaurants limit service to outdoor dining or carry out.

Car Culture, Lance Bocarsly, Ventura County, CA, August 14, 2020

The pandemic has altered every aspect of life, from grocery shopping to socializing.  Our genius stems from our creativity for adapting.  The Ventura County Fairgrounds opens each summer with a range of activities that would violate social distancing requirements. To keep the community safe, the fairgrounds cancelled the 2020 fair and, instead, used its large parking lot for drive up concerts and movies—stay in your car and enjoy entertainment safely.  California’s famous car culture has been adapted to save lives in the new reality.

Limited Capacity, Ralph Scott, Greenville, NC, August 21, 2020

Surrounding the University are off-campus apartment complexes that have bus service for students. During the COVID pandemic, bus capacity, which is normally around 40 people, has been reduced to maintain social distancing. I noticed the contrast between the large bus and the “limited capacity” sign.

Study Abroad, Ralph Scott, Greenville, NC, August 21, 2020

The university study abroad program ended with COVID-19 and limitations on travel overseas. Instead, signs were placed around campus urging social distancing, hand washing, and use of face masks. The contrast between the pre-COVID attempts at getting students to travel abroad and the current pandemic guidelines for social distancing appealed to me as a photographer.

Creativity & Connection, Anna Reyner

My “Art, Creativity & Wellness” class has been booked a lot by school districts during the pandemic. Everyone is in need of outlets for creativity and hope. Teaching hands-on art via zoom is surprisingly creative and fun. People are craving self-expression and connection, which this gives them.

Closed Again, Lance Bocarsly, Ventura, California, August 15, 2020

I am not a consumer of tattoos; I do not have any, and due to generational or social factors, few people I am close to overtly sport them. When I first saw this sign, it struck me as odd. Although we hear much about the impact of the pandemic on local businesses, I never thought of a tattoo parlor as a “business.” The frustration expressed by the sign confirms the economic impact on every sector.

Economic Malaise, Sharon Swerdlow, Santa Monica, August 18, 2020

This sign on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is a stark example of the economic damage COVID-19 has inflicted on this popular shopping district at the height of what normally would be the tourist season. We are living in anything but normal conditions. While most of the media attention has focused on former retail giants—such as J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J. Crew—that recently filed for bankruptcy, more than 60,000 local businesses have closed due to the pandemic.

Sign of the Times, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 16, 2020

As we walk around our city, “for lease” signs seem to be more prevalent. With a faltering economy due to the pandemic establishments struggle to survive.

The Incompatibility of Anger and Glass, Jeff Gottesman, Los Angeles, May 2020

In the aftermath of protests in the Fairfax area, a masked shop owner sweeps up glass. This was one of many shops that suffered damage and destruction by looters following peaceful protests for police reform and racial equity. It seemed so senseless. Injustice heaped on injustice.

It’s All So Sad, Sharon Swerdlow, August 18, 2020

Sadly, boarded up storefronts have become a common sight in our city. The tribute to Breonna Taylor, an African-American emergency medical technician, who was fatally shot in her home months before her 27th birthday, is both sweet and tragically sad. The for lease signs above the artwork add to the somber mood, reminding us of the economically uncertain times we are living in.

Rainbow Love, Debbie Cohen August 2020

I love knowing that this home, my neighbor, believes in what I believe in… Love is love is love.

An Expression of Pride, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 16, 2020

I took an oath when I graduated medical school. In my years of training and practice, I didn’t ask a person’s race or ethnicity when I was called to the hospital for a surgical emergency. All Lives Matter, it should not need to be said. Although there has been ongoing loss of life, I am hopeful that we’re continuing to make strides in the right direction.

Black, Debbie Cohen August 2020

As I walked through my neighborhood, I was struck by the intensity of these BLM signs and the intensity of the gate’s ironwork, with its solid sheet of metal, keeping out strangers and like a shield to danger. The signs are symbols of the struggle and power of the movement, as if knowing that violence comes with the struggle and fight for justice.

BLM Recipe, Shirah Rubin, Arlington, MA, Summer 2020

Gathering healthy ingredients to cook up human respect and dignity for all. We are the cooks and the ingredients to bring change.

Masked Demo II, Jeff Gottesman, Santa Monica, August 2020

There is a group of protesters that still show up most Thursdays in front of the Santa Monica Police headquarters. They are upset by the treatment by the SMPD in May of those protesting racial inequity. Ironically, police cars leaving the lot honk in approval as they drive by.

First Table, Ralph Scott, Greenville, NC, August 19, 2020

The university started an initiative to help students to talk about issues, rather than engaging in physical confrontation. This table of student materials was provided by a group called Turning Point USA, which promotes the idea that America is a land of freedom and free expression, as held by the “Make America Great” theme. This was the only “student” table on campus following the Fall 2020 re-opening and thus stood out in an otherwise table empty campus.

Being Noticed, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 16, 2020
Hard to Believe, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 16, 2020

My father-in-law spent 3 years overseas during WWII. My father—a WWII vet—worked as an x-ray technician in the Brooklyn VA for the 30 years before he retired. I volunteered there beginning at age 13, and later as a medical student and surgical resident rotated through this and other VA hospitals. We took care of these people, so it is hurtful to see the lack of regard for them. On a brighter note, there are organizations and people who work tirelessly to improve the lives of those who’ve served their country and preserve the lives of others more fortunate.

Trying to Remember, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 12, 2020

In these times of unrest and within our zone of comfort, we look for ways to feel some semblance of what we once knew as normal, if only for brief periods of time. The gap between those who have and those who struggle seems more pronounced.

Stocking Up, Sharon Swerdlow, August 13, 2020

Sourcing groceries has become a part-time job. With local shelter-in-place restrictions, we have become dependent on delivery services such as Instacart for provisions. Due to looming uncertainty as to obtaining fresh and cherished favorite foods, and having five mouths to feed, we order IN BULK. We are grateful for the bounty of fresh produce and non-perishable items that will fill our bellies.

In Line for Food Distribution II, Jeff Gottesman, August 2020

Certainly not a common site in Santa Monica, but cars line up and snake around the block for a food distribution event. So many people who have been living on the edge are now pushed over that edge and have come upon hard times in their lives.

Must Be Giving Something Away, Jeff Gottesman, Santa Monica, August, 2020

The cars are lined up in formation for food pickup. The pandemic has complicated the process as masks are required, trunks must be opened upon approach and recipients are not to leave their cars. Many of these scenes are reminiscent of photos taken during the pandemic and the depression one hundred years ago now.

Help, Nancy Kaye, Los Angeles, August 18, 2020

Sitting on a bench with a bold sign appealing for donations to help food banks to feed families is a woman who would be greatly helped by such services. Life was harsh and difficult for the homeless before the pandemic. Now it is frighteningly complicated by the threat of COVID-19.

Shana Tovah at Home, Jeff Gottesman, Los Angeles, August, 2020

High Holiday prayer books are distributed and food for the needy is collected at my synagogue in a drive through event. Curbside pickup, masks and social distancing all included. No tips necessary.

It Takes A Village , Robin Venturelli, Santa Monica, June 1, 2020

I’m used to seeing tourists at this local hotel and throughout my city of Santa Monica. During the pandemic, the visitors are gone and now I see law enforcement, essential workers, and locals getting some fresh air. Many businesses still operate after having been looted and boarded up. It will take all of us residents and the travelers to bring the city back to life.

Pipe Break , Robin Venturelli, Santa Monica

I feel that the homeless population has increased in Santa Monica since COVID began. I can imagine the loneliness and isolation that comes with being unsheltered. As I passed this gentleman, I realized he was enjoying the simple pleasure of a pipe break in his own world, alone, yet in the middle of the sidewalk.

Bioluminescent Beach, Anna Reyner, Manhattan Beach

My son was in his third year of university when his school closed and classes went on-line. He moved back home to continue his studies online, but the social element of college is missing. When the ocean became bioluminescent this summer from the algae blooms, we took him to Manhattan Beach where he used to surf with friends. The ocean reflected the surreal quality of our current lives.

Respect, Harley Wishner, Los Angeles, August 5, 2020

I see these signs each day on my morning walk. Is this who we’ve become? That no matter what our political beliefs, we’ve lost respect for one another? Science must not be politicized to the point that we lose our ability to care for anyone but ourselves. I have to believe that we are better than that.

Unconventional Conventions, Nancy Kaye, USA, August 2020

Foregoing the traditional large and raucous gatherings due to the pandemic, the televised Democratic and Republican conventions kicked off the fall 2020 presidential campaigns. The roll calls and speeches were intimate via Zoom or pre-recorded—and in many ways, I found it preferable.