Podcast: Covering COVID-19 - A Follow-Up Conversation with Desiree Rios and Sarah Blesener

Eight months ago, on the B&H Photography Podcast, we welcomed four photojournalists who were covering the beginning stages of the COVID-19 crisis in New York. We discussed their fears and the stories they hoped to cover; we also discussed safety precautions, limited access to subjects, and altered workflows. It was the beginning of a new reality. On today’s episode, we welcome back two of those photographers—Desiree Rios and Sarah Blesener—for a follow-up conversation on how their work has evolved since March.

We first welcome Desiree Rios, who photographs for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. We speak with Rios about her daily assignments covering the effects of the pandemic in New York, primarily in the Bronx. We talk about using her work as a support for the community, about building solidarity with the people she photographs, and about trying to tell deeper aspects of a story with daily news images. We also marvel over how attitudes about masks and PPE were so different in March.

After a break, we speak with Sarah Blesener. She also works for the Times and WSJ, but thanks to a commission from the International Center for Photography and a grant from National Geographic, she was able to focus on a long-term project over these months. Specifically, she photographed her eighty-year-old landlady and how she, along with the neighborhood community she is a part of, came together to withstand the effects of the pandemic and shutdown. Blesener relates how she came to appreciate working in a less intimate and less spontaneous manner than normal, how she avoided risky assignments so as not to risk infecting her landlady, and how the project grew to involve the neighborhood and became a very optimistic story, despite the situation. This series is currently on exhibition at ICP.

Join us for this topical and interesting conversation on the evolving role of photojournalism during 2020.

Guests: Desiree Rios and Sarah Blesener

Photograph © Sarah Blesener

From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
From the series, "Slow as Summer Is, Still" © Sarah Blesener, 2020
Our Lady of Mount Carmel was open for private prayer in the Belmont neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on Sunday, May 24, 2020. © Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Our Lady of Mount Carmel was open for private prayer in the Belmont neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on Sunday, May 24, 2020. © Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Mercedes poses for a portrait with her daughter down the street from her apartment building in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York on June 19, 2020. Mercedes, who has no income since her husband lost his construction job due to the pandemic, is unable to receive unemployment benefits because of their immigration status. © Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Mercedes poses for a portrait with her daughter down the street from her apartment building in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York on June 19, 2020. Mercedes, who has no income since her husband lost his construction job due to the pandemic, is unable to receive unemployment benefits because of their immigration status. © Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Residents wear face masks while sitting on the stoop of their building in the Morrisania neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on April 14, 2020.  © Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Residents wear face masks while sitting on the stoop of their building in the Morrisania neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on April 14, 2020. © Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

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