I first went out at the very start of April to try to photograph scenes of the Mission District in San Francisco during lockdown. At first, it was too depressing a prospect. I kept putting it off. It was as if somehow photographing it would mean admitting it’s really happening. My first reaction was disbelief, like it was all going to be revealed to be an April Fools.
The days wore on, and now days have become weeks. I still didn’t post these photos because I was not proud of them. I wanted to capture scenes that were more visceral, completely unique. Something that would tug on the viewer’s heartstrings or bring warmth or levity or wit. I wanted to showcase the colorful characters that comprise my neighborhood of the Mission District.
But when I went out there to shoot, there was nothing. There were hardly any people, even the homeless were gone. Those that were there were scared and kept their distance. It didn’t feel like the right time for that candid style of street photography. The one where you wait for people to pass by and snap them and there’s nothing they can do.
In an environment of paranoia, confusion and sadness, the project changed.
Mission District signage
Rather than the people, I photographed what I could: the signs that local businesses had put up to advise of the closures due to COVID-19. Some signs were funny, some uber-hip, some handwritten, others luxuriously designed, others in Spanish, and all of them tinged with sorrow.
So this is the story of the Mission District largely without its people, the characters that line its streets. These are not the beautiful, well-timed, witty photos I wanted to capture. This is the reality, one which I hope will strike a poignant chord with its residents.
This place is my home – but with everything that’s happening, being a new resident myself, I’m not sure for how much longer.
That’s pretty much everything I can preface this with. I hope to add to this collection with better photos in the future. Street photography has never been my strong suit. It takes a long time and lots of failures to produce compelling street photos. Maybe I was just afraid of the failures.
Either way, it is what it is. A collection of street photos of the Mission District during lockdown.
All images are © Zoe Larkin Photography 2020 | Please direct any press inquiries to zoe [at] zoelarkin.com
For some happier Mission District pics, check out the links below.