The first person I knew who had COVID-19 (is OK now!)

It sounds so exotic to say that I know someone who is a photo journalist, but I do: Pete Kiehart. He is a friend of my husband’s, but it has become somewhat of a hobby for us to be impressed by his photos, which have appeared in the New York Times and other impressive publications. He has worked in dangerous places and far away countries, always capturing human emotions 0 often in crowds. I suppose I wasn’t all that surprised when I heard that he had tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from Paris. But that’s not to say I wasn’t worried. I contacted him throughout his time quarantining himself in his parents’ home - always worried that despite him feeling fine the last time I had checked, that he would take a turn. But all is well. It has been more than a month and he’s doing fine. 

Here are the questions that I asked him on March 25:

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your background, and how you came to work where you do.

I'm a freelance photographer based in Paris. I work primarily for American clients like The New York Times, among others. Previously I was based in Kyiv, Ukraine; where I covered the war, among other things. Prior to that I was a staff photographer and photo editor at The San Francisco Chronicle.

Please tell us the date you are completing this form, and how your opinion has changed since that time. Was there one moment when you recall your attitude toward this situation changed?

Obviously my opinion has changed substantially as I am now infected and in quarantine. I think my attitude changed around the time Trump gave his address from the oval office, which I believe was two weeks ago today. Everything seemed to become more urgent around that time, particularly the following day (I stayed up late to watch Trump's speech, I think it was around 4am Paris time). I remember a colleague asking me Wednesday or Thursday morning whether he should cancel a happy hour he had organized for the following night - I laughed when he asked me and then, in the end, I didn't attend.

How has work changed for you during this time? 

….One of my clients responded to an inquiry yesterday, saying that they were still interested in the project I wanted to do for them, but couldn't see running it in the foreseeable future. "...happy to revisit this project once the pandemic is over" - sentences I'd never thought I'd read.

Has this situation affected you personally (ie outside of work)? Do you feel increased stress? If so, how are you coping with this?

Yeah - has had a strong impact on my personal life and my relationship. Feels more stressful in general. Something I bump on is every time I see someone in a movie shake hands or anything like that.

 

During this time, it turns out he was hard at work (lemons to lemonade) on an NPR piece, talking about what it was like to be quarantined, and sharing really beautiful photos with his girlfriend, Kasia Strek, who is also a photo journalist. Their description of how hard this time was is moving. A recommended read.

It also made me think about how many folks will be displaced during and even after this crisis. How long will it be until people want to gather for sports matches? Political rallies? I know that people like Pete will find other things to photograph, but it is surely true that the new world we are all imagining - with all of us keeping a safe distance, will look a lot different.

Natalie Banet's Blog @natalie

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