By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Social distancing, working from home, food giveaways, unemployment, missed holidays and rising COVID cases. They are all part our new normal which has led to a visual research project at Florida International University.

“We decided to put together, to document this from a visual stand point. What we experience with the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Jack Vertovec, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies.

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It is a gallery of photos called GREETINGS COVIDIANS.  It uses visual engagement and critical reflection to chronicle what individuals think one single photo best represents their experience with the pandemic.

“I think that one of the things we tried to capture with the project was to give people the opportunity to reflect on their daily circumstances in an almost cathartic way,” says Vertovec.

It is a research project put together by grad students and professors.

All of the pictures are submitted on a website. Anyone can contribute and you can remain anonymous if you want.

“For us researchers, it is a beautiful opportunity to understand what the public is doing, said Vertovec.

Through the pictures a community dialogue emerges, resulting in academic papers on social transformation during COVID, leading to discussions on public and private policy changes.

“We hope on one end, on the personal level it is cathartic for people and people can be reflective an outlet for them to publish in a way their observations but on the other end, we hope it instigates real discussion about how we come out on the other end of this pandemic,” said Vertovec.

(Courtesy: FIU)

Some of the photos online include deeply personal comments.

One reads, “The photo is a reflection of my new reality. Anxiety is my new norm. I find myself getting these anxious attacks even when I try to fool my mind. Before COVID-19, I wasn’t familiar with this feeling.”

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Another photo’s comments read, “We are each on a road and we don’t know where we are going. Up the hill, down the hill and hopefully not off the edge.”

(Courtesy: FIU)

A third reads, “Keeping at-risk family members safe requires us to first and foremost stay at home. However, unavoidably social isolation has a toll on mental health. To beat the cabin fever, long walks in the Everglades with all family members living in the house helped to refuel and have a sense of independence.”

(Courtesy: FIU)

GREETINGS COVIDIANS began as a class project in a course called “Visual Methods in Social Science Research”

Another photo in the gallery says, “In the context of a pandemic, we are taught to visualize the virus in our everyday environment. Media blasts us with techniques for chemical annihilation of an invisible enemy. Yet we rarely consider the mental health effects of seeing catastrophe in our every move. Viral risks need to be balanced with self-care and techniques for emotional resilience.”

(Courtesy: FIU)

Another reads, “Even though I passed this corner every day, I never really considered its aesthetics. I guess it was too close to home. I mean, I thought about what the lounge would be like: what good times we’d have, the people we’d meet. But now, that all seems impossible. Of course, the easy response is to not stop, start… But, let’s be patient, plan, and start to imagine – like a kid holding a balloon – what new heights we can achieve. Coming soon… a future as bright as our wildest dreams.”

(Courtesy: FIU)

“I think people are struggling in some ways, some of our photos capture that. I think for the most part a lot of people are optimistic at least within themselves,” says Vertovec.

Now think about what picture you would post to best represent your experience with the pandemic. It may not be as easy as you think.

If you’d like to see more of the pictures from the FIU research project, click here.

You can also upload your own photo. It can be from inside the home or in a public place; what matters most is the documentation of this critical time in modern history.

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