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‘It’s about human beings.’ This photographer’s goal in documenting COVID-19

For weeks, Getty Images photographer John Moore has brought his camera to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, documenting the new realities of American life. He has accompanied emergency medical workers dispatched to collect the sick and gone inside intensive care units while patients are treated. As part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas, Moore shares some of what he has seen.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For weeks, photographer John Moore has been bringing his camera to the front lines of the pandemic to document the new realities of life in America.

    He has accompanied emergency medical workers, and he's gone inside intensive care units. Here's a look at some of what he has seen.

    It's part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.

  • John Moore:

    I'm John Moore, and I'm a staff photographer and special correspondent for Getty Images.

    Getty images sent me to Seattle. It was early March. The disease had already spread to a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, which is just outside of Seattle. And so I was photographing the empty city of Seattle and what was happening outside of nursing homes.

    And I was in Seattle for about a week. And then I flew back once the crisis really began to be obvious here on the East Coast of the U.S. And my flight back from Seattle to New York City was virtually empty.

    And so I photographed really the emptiness, which would become our society in general in public places. And I began covering the epidemic really from the outskirts of the epicenter.

    But what affects New York City affects the areas all around it. So, whether it's New Jersey, whether it's Long Island in New York, Westchester County or Southern/Southwestern Connecticut, everyone is affected in some way or another.

    I have photographed testing sites. I photographed schools that are empty. I have photographed families at home to show what that looks like, also for immigrant families, because I think the immigrant community, especially the undocumented community, is — is really highly affected.

    They don't have — many of them don't have health insurance, and very few of them have any protections when they're unemployed.

    Of course, when I'm photographing in intimate environments, it's important for me to maintain my own health, so I can keep covering the story in a way that's meaningful to our viewers.

    On the other hand, it's so important for me to protect the people I'm photographing. For instance, I will give you an example. There was one case where EMS workers in Yonkers went to a house and had to intubate a man who was barely breathing when they arrived.

    And that situation was just incredible to see. You hear about intubations, but you almost never see it. And so I tried to photograph it in a way that gave respect to the gentleman that they were trying to save — and they did — and still show the drama of the moment. And those are very, very delicate moment, very sensitive moments.

    When you talk to first responders, to paramedics, it's interesting. Yes, people are seeing them as heroes. They're doing heroic work. And it's amazing.

    But, at the same time, it's incredible. People are just being heroes doing the jobs they normally do. But that's what we have here. And I think we're all very thankful for them.

    For me, it's important that this story be told, not only in terms of statistics. We hear about this all the time, thousands of people infected, thousands of people died. But it's about human beings.

    And I want to show what that looks like, where people can really see what's happening to other human beings that shows the heroism of the EMS workers who are doing this important work, and the hospital workers who are taking care of people on the other side.

    And if I can show that and bring it to a human level, then I have done my job.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they truly are heroes.

    And we thank you, John Moore.

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