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WSCC students capture moments in COVID-19 time

When COVID-19 hit this spring, students were blindsided by change. Just how would they go about continuing their individual educations while practicing social distancing and remaining “Safer at Home?”

It did not take long for school administrators to come up with novel ways to continue the hard work by offering learning via online courses and take-home assignments.

At Walters State Community College, photography students were in the midst of completing class assignments centered on spring when the college switched in March to an online-only format.

For John D. Allen, photographer and adjunct faculty member, this meant no more class walks to promising photo locations. He says he knew something would be different this semester.

“I knew I wanted to do something in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This is a point in history, and photography plays an important role in documenting history. This was a unique opportunity,” said Allen.

He had heard about a call for entries into a “Life at Six Feet” exhibition, capturing how Americans were adjusting to the call for social distancing. Allen said he knew that this was a chance to capture history. He also knew it would give students a chance to have their work published, recognized and exhibited.

“This assignment generated a lot of excitement among the students. I didn’t want anything to slow the momentum, so I really didn’t give anyone specific photos. Every student seemed to have something in mind,” said Allen.

In the following weeks, he received photos of drive-in church services and empty parking lots.

“The photos shot by my students are different because they are shot in mostly rural areas. Most of the photographs and videos we have seen of the pandemic have been shot in densely populated areas,” said Allen.

For instance, Newport resident Danielle Farragut decided to document the essential workers in her workplace. Farragut set about capturing still moments inside her hometown Walmart store. Her photos capture the changes that occur when a crowded store must adjust to maintaining 6 feet between each employee and customer while navigating the new ‘now’ of dealing with limited supplies.

It appears the photography students will walk away from college this year with perhaps a greater appreciation for just what happens when a moment in time is forever captured within the borders of a photograph.