A Sidewalk View of Staying Home & Saving Lives

Freelance photographer, and Comer Family Foundation's own, Jasmin Shah discusses her latest project with Jenn White on WBEZ's Reset.

"You want to take a photo of me like this? I'm still in my pajama bottoms and bare feet!"

—Tina Hernandez

89-year-old Tina Hernandez on her front stairs in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, May 2020.

On March 22nd, the first full day of Chicago’s shelter in place order, I went out for a walk to take photos. As a documentary photographer, my main interest is people, but that day the streets were empty. So I just began asking to take portraits of people where they were—in their windows or on their stoops. I’ve now shot over 70 households. Some are friends (or friends of friends), others are strangers I come across on my walks. 

My favorite part of the project has been the unexpected connections I get to share with the subjects. Interactions are much rarer and more meaningful right now, and a really special bond can form between people—sometimes even when you’re mouthing words to each other through a window. 

All of my upcoming scheduled shoots have been canceled, so I’ll keep the project going for as long as I can safely and responsibly walk around the city. It keeps me inspired and focused, and it creates the kinds of interactions and connections that people value and need right now. I know I do.

—Jasmin Shah

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