My name is Sandra Döhnert, I am a professional photographer born in San Juan Puerto Rico and living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Over a month and a half ago, when all the talk about the Covid-19 started to gain momentum here in the U.S.A., my husband, our child and I went out for a bike ride for what we were considering our "last hurrah," a family picnic at Northshore Park. There, I mentioned how I would miss seeing our community the way it was - vibrant, with tons of things to do and places to visit, lots of new small businesses opening, and most of all, the people that make St. Petersburg the favorite place I've ever lived in.
My thought was, that as an event photographer I would definitely suffer, but that I also had the tools to shoot photos of the town I would miss, and the people that make it special, all from far away. It just made sense. (It is worth noting that my sister is a nurse at a Covid-19 ICU so I'm hyper aware that anything I did would have to take place from a safe distance.)
After three plus weeks of isolation, I started sending out email requests to friends and setting days and times so I could take a portrait at a distance. And so the photo essay was born; a simple idea under an extraordinary circumstance. As it turns out, this idea has had a welcomed reception. For my shoots, I arrived at the agreed time and location and stood at at far distance from my subjects. I was in and out in 2 or 3 minutes tops.
Photographer Sandra Dohnert taking photos safely from afar.
Shortly after, I contacted more local artists, more local businesses, volunteers making masks, local music venues, publishers and organizations and sure enough, everyone has been excited about this project. Everyone found that it sends a positive message; and it comes from a genuine place of hope; that is the end goal. It turns out that this long range lens visit from afar has made most people feel connected not only with me but with the audience that will see them, with you. It is amazing to see how everyone is handling life in a new way, or staying put at home, or isolated at work or maybe out there, risking their lives and lending a hand. Everyone is feeling and living this moment. There is a lot of missing, a lot of reinventing, a lot of re-evaluating and editing our priorities, daily habits and a lot of losing and regaining hope over and over again. My hope is that with this photo essay us as a city, feel more connected and accountable for each other so that we don't lose track of what a wonderful community we still have, right. outside our doors.