“The first month of my quarantine I worked round the clock, because the timing coincided with business and regulatory deadlines,” Maria Chambers says. “This kept me from fully digesting the transformative reality of the pandemic.”
“When José Arcadio Buendía realized that the plague had invaded the town, he gathered the heads of families to explain what he knew about the insomnia disease, and measures were agreed to prevent the scourge from spreading to other populations in the swamp.”
—Gabriel García Márquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”
Amid the pandemic lockdown, my wife, our one-bedroom Manhattan apartment and the view out of our window became my only photojournalistic subjects.
Maria is an executive in the financial services industry. Her employer decided to take a proactive approach to protecting the employees. She started working from home on March 11, almost two weeks before Gov. Mario Cuomo’s formal stay-at-home mandate.
I am a photographer and a graduate student at the Newmark J-School. This photo essay depicts a period of 61 days as Maria adapted to the “new normal,” where the majority of our daily activities took place in our 11- by 13-foot living room.
The New Scenes
Maria accommodated my desire to follow a stricter quarantine than she would have on her own. Other than stepping onto our fire escape, Maria went outside only twice, to buy groceries and supplies, over the 61 days before the stay-at-home restrictions were eased. But we were never bored.
There was too much to do inside our home, and being isolated with the one you love is exciting. We celebrated both of our birthdays and our 11th wedding anniversary. These were some of the only days Maria changed out of her pajamas.
Feeling Every Feeling
Her life in quarantine resulted in longer working hours. “With the millions of people losing their jobs, I am grateful that I can work from home,” she says. “I also have a strong need to feel connected to my colleagues.”
Our window—which faces the Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street—has now become our most valuable connection to community and nature. We observe with curiosity and gratitude the comings and goings of the most important of the frontline workers: first responders, paramedics, police officers, traffic-control agents, postal workers, and delivery people.
They Kept Us Supplied
The highlight of Maria’s day came at 7 p.m. when for four minutes, she joined our neighbors in thanking the first responders and healthcare workers by cheering, clapping and making noise.
Connecting From Isolation
Maria’s expects that her employer will continue to have its employees work from home: “I am prepared to live the hermit life until my being out there is no longer a threat to the community at large.”
The New Rituals
From the start of the pandemic, the sound of the ambulances has disturbed our sleep. As in Gabriel García Márquez’s fictional Macondo, insomnia has become viral in Manhattan.
Maria has leveraged this condition to finally begin reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which was the first book I ever gifted her.