Akron photographer captures positivity, pain during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 4:38 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 14:32:25-04

AKRON, Ohio — As we’ve been forced to make major adjustments in our daily lives during this global health crisis, artists say it’s imperative to document these moments as a piece of history.

“We’ve found that there are two very different experiences that people are having and even more than that,” Todd Biss said. “And so it was important that we showed the variety of ways people are living.”

Autumn Bland has been capturing vulnerability as a photographer for decades. She currently works for Todd Biss Productions out of Akron, OH.

“She’s shooting a ton of stuff and it’s really getting lot of attention,” Biss said. “And it’s beautiful work. She’s a really talented photographer.”

Each camera shutter during the COVID-19 pandemic encapsulates a story.

“Getting out there and seeing what other people are enduring, even our neighbors a couple streets over, it’s very different,” Bland said.

Bland was inspired to photograph these hardships after reflecting on photographs taken during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

“My ultimate hope is that we only experience this one in our lifetime,” Bland said. “And when we look back on it we think we made it through that.”

Frame by frame, Bland captures the sentiments of Northeast Ohioans as they adapt to life and a temporary, new normal.

“Whether you’re out working to protect and serve your community or staying at home to keep yourselves healthy and everyone around you healthy,” Bland said, “They’re equally as valuable.”

She focuses on the bravery of essential workers in their element.

“Showing them in a different light,” Bland said. “More black and white, more powerful.”

Bland is also exposing the raw emotion of families as they navigate new lifestyles, all under one roof.

“In these small moments that I’m at these people’s houses standing on their sidewalk talking to them they say, ‘Gosh it’s so nice to interact with somebody,’” Bland said.

Photographers are being emotionally moved by interactions they witness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just witnessed a woman coaxing her 97-year-old mom to the window to have a quick phone call with her and talk to her and I got choked up,” Biss said. “I mean, it’s some hard things to see.”

One of Bland’s “essentials” portraits features a front-line healthcare worker.

“Autumn has a shot of a nurse who’s about seven months pregnant and when I saw that image it just, it grabbed me,” Biss said.

Both Bland and Biss hope the “Portraits of a Pandemic” collection will remind people of the important things long after schools and businesses reopen and normalcy is restored.

“I think in 25 years it’ll be great for them to be reminded,” Biss said. “Show the grand kids what we have lived through.”

Bland said she will continue to shed light on both the positivity and the pain Northeast Ohioans are facing during this unprecedented time.

“While it is a challenging time, I hope that doing this project and talking with more people helps us open our eyes and appreciate the life that we have,” Bland said. “Even if it is restricted right now.”

Bland’s online collection has already gained a large following on social media. You can find these photographs on her website and Instagram.