The Empty City: a Quarantine Photo-Journal

Jump to:
Month One: Pre-Quarantine WeekQuarantine: Week OneQuarantine: Week TwoQuarantine: Week ThreeQuarantine: Week Four | Quarantine: Week Five

Month Two: French QuarterFrenchmen Street & Marigny | Miscellaneous

May 16, 2020
It’s become a meme that time has lost all meaning in quarantine. And yet, today marks two months since stay-at-home orders were first put into place in New Orleans. Since my update at the one-month mark (jump to the One-Month Mark) we’ve celebrated Mother’s Day (and my own mother’s birthday!) from afar. We’ve Jazz-Fested-in-place in the absence of the pièce de résistance of festival season (and, really, the absence of festival season as a whole). Proms and graduations were held virtually or missed altogether. The Formosan termites, eschewing all social distancing recommendations, held their annual swarm (detached, translucent wings now swirl on the pavement outside my apartment where I sit writing this). In other parts of the country, murder hornets showed up on the scene, and the actual human murderers of Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested not due to any readily available integrity of our criminal justice system but because of a heavy-handed internet response.

As of yesterday, the long road to the removal of the wreckage of the Hard Rock Hotel (which collapsed while under construction way back in October) was finally initiated, starting with the demolition of a few adjacent buildings. COVID-19-related deaths topped 2300 in Louisiana.

Yesterday also marked the beginning of Phase One reopening in Louisiana, which permits a variety of businesses to open at 25% capacity in order to abide by social distancing guidelines. There has been a spectrum of responses to this– many are excited (Jobs are coming back! Food options are more plentiful!), many are apprehensive (Second wave! What happens to unemployment benefits now?!), and many are not planning to modify their quarantine behavior at all.

I took photos over the course of the past month as well, though not with the same vigor as the first time around. The novelty of the ‘Empty City’ had somewhat worn off; your humble narrator got lazy, as she is wont to do, and even rediscovering Pokémon Go for a brief spell only encouraged extended dog walks on a handful of occasions. The primary development to break up the monotony was that over time the plywood covering the windows and doors of the boarded-up businesses in the Quarter and on Frenchmen became canvases for many a local artist (a much appreciated development indeed!).

Because time has lost all meaning in quarantine, I’m not going to organize this month’s photos by week but rather by neighborhood. Of most interest will be the ones of the aforementioned art (et al) in the French Quarter and on Frenchmen (which I’ve lumped together with a stroll through the Marigny, where I also encountered plenty of art, but of a more permanent, pre-quarantine mural variety).

The rest… I guess I’m just throwing into a ‘Miscellaneous‘ batch, haha. Some are from brief strolls around the Tremé, some I got while doing meal deliveries in Central City and New Orleans East, some are from a jaunt up Tchoupitoulas to pick up Boyfriend‘s limited edition Mango IPA from Urban South (#fangirl), some are from pipe-dream-real-estate-peeping-outings in the Seventh Ward (Redfin has become my quarantine Tinder? They’re weirdly almost anagrams?).

Or, here’s a highlight reel from Month Two:

Jump to:
Month One: Pre-Quarantine WeekQuarantine: Week OneQuarantine: Week TwoQuarantine: Week ThreeQuarantine: Week Four | Quarantine: Week Five

Month Two: French QuarterFrenchmen Street & Marigny | Miscellaneous

April 15, 2020
Against all odds and various calls for severe weather, we haven’t had a day of rain in New Orleans since quarantine measures were put into place on March 16, 2020. It’s drizzled ever so briefly a few times, and there were a couple nights marked by claps of thunder and a quick cloudburst, but our days have been graced almost exclusively with the bluest skies and the fluffiest cumulus clouds. To wit: not the easiest conditions in which to #stayhome.

So, Reason #35326 I’m so thankful to have my Ollie Pup: dog walks have been a key source of sanity for me during this quarantine, strolling along in the sunshine through what I’ve come to think of as ‘The Empty City.’ A ghost-town of a French Quarter, its myriad bars and restaurants simultaneously shut down for the first time in its 300 year history. (‘It wasn’t even this bad during Katrina!’, is a common refrain you’ll hear from people who were around to know.) A sleepy Tremé. An Armstrong Park shut down so drive-thru COVID-19 testing could be administered. A lonely Greenway. A peaceful bayou and lakefront. (And, admittedly, times when it seemed like distancing measures weren’t being administered as recommended in any of these places.)

Of course, I instantly began snapping pictures of our city in this unprecedented time. Lots of pictures. Mostly on my phone, for better or worse, though occasionally I brought along my DSLR as well. Not all of the pics show obvious signs of quarantine, though the majority do; in many ways I’ve tried to use all this down time to catch up on projects I never made time for, to include a deep dive of photography in this picturesque place. If I can find one silver lining in all this, it’s that an ‘Empty City’ is particularly photogenic.

Jump to photos.

And now, to mark a month in lockdown, I’ve gone through and organized the pictures week-by-week as a ‘photojournal’ of life in quarantine. I’ve tried to present a fairly complete picture, with sporadic details from my own life slipped in to demonstrate both the (hopefully!) interesting as well as the mundane aspects of this life… screenshots of jokes and Zoom meetings, records of quarantine projects, gas prices, empty shelves. I’ve also tried to include specifics about local and statewide coronavirus policy, as well as the Louisiana death toll as it mounted. This interactive timeline was an extremely useful tool. Finally, I decided to also make a post for the week before quarantine/lockdown/shutdown to illustrate just how drastic and sudden this lifestyle shift was.

I feel compelled to include that despite living in one of the COVID-19 ‘hotbeds’ of the nation, my privilege, as always, prevails and I know my experience isn’t entirely representative of what many in the city are going through. I feel it would be disingenuous to ‘report’ on this weird month in New Orleans without acknowledging that, predictably, impoverished and African-American communities are suffering to a far greater degree. I count myself among the many who have ‘cautious optimism’ that this pandemic will expose pervasive flaws in our society, and perhaps even present some kind of roadmap to correcting them. These types of inequality, and the fact that they can be truly life-threatening in situations such as this, are high on the list of those flaws.

On this page I’ve just included a selection of the photos from each week; click the header for the full batch, as well as context for the photos and the concurrent coronavirus happenings in the city that week.

Pre-Quarantine Week (Monday, March 9 – Sunday, March 15)

(click for the full Pre-Quarantine Week post)

Quarantine: Week One (Monday, March 16 – Sunday, March 22)

(click for the full Quarantine: Week One post)

Quarantine: Week Two (Monday, March 23 – Sunday, March 29)

(click for the full Quarantine: Week Two post)

Quarantine: Week Three (Monday, March 30 – Sunday, April 5)

(click for the full Quarantine: Week Three post)

Quarantine: Week Four (Monday, April 6 – Sunday, April 12)

(click for full Quarantine: Week Four post)

Quarantine: Week Five (Monday, April 13 – Sunday, April 19)

(click for full Quarantine: Week Five post)

Jump to:
Month One: Pre-Quarantine WeekQuarantine: Week OneQuarantine: Week Two
Quarantine: Week ThreeQuarantine: Week Four | Quarantine: Week Five

Month Two: French QuarterFrenchmen Street & Marigny | Miscellaneous


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