Lockdown: 100 Days in San Francisco Facing COVID-19, Protests, and an Uncertain Future
Outskirts Press (2021)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (01/2022)
When San Francisco went into lockdown, author/photographer Conor Mitchell took to the streets to document what was taking place in the once lively city. His photographs represent one hundred days of lockdown and the events that occurred during that time period (March 16, 2020-June 23, 2020). In addition to the poignant, sometimes haunting photos, Mitchell also provides narratives discussing what he is witnessing and reflecting on as he moves through various sections of the city. Much of his ponderings focus on how empty the streets and buildings are, while he wonders what this means for the future of San Francisco and the world as a whole.
Hotels, theaters, the pier, bars—all closed…as if an apocalyptic event came along and wiped human beings off the Earth. He questions what the new “normal” will be when these locations open up again. He also notes how a city with limited office space was able to quickly transition to having employees work remotely, and how this is one thing that could end up to be a positive aspect of the lockdown. During this time, he also witnessed and captured images from the George Floyd protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mitchell begins his story with the number of people in the U.S. who are infected, and the number who have died from COVID. Then he ends with a recent update on these numbers…and they don’t look good. With “Lockdown” Conor Mitchell gives San Francisco a “voice” during a time when the city was absolutely silenced. Traditionally, San Francisco is a vibrant city. The colors are usually so vivid, from the vibrant blue skies to the deep verdant grass. The streets teem with lively characters as well. This is a city where I have experienced many beautiful memories. Even when I would be out late at night, the streets were full of people. I never thought those same streets would one day be empty. Witnessing the lockdown presented in black and white photos made the whole event seem even more austere and poignant. By covering the first 100 days, we look back on the start of the nightmare when we were just beginning to realize that we were going way past the two weeks we were originally supposed to be shut down. And now, almost two years later, after most of us have had multiple vaccinations, we are headed into some form of lockdown again.
It feels never ending. At this point, most of us have witnessed the horrific effects COVID-19 is capable of bringing. We’ve lost loved ones to whom we couldn’t even say goodbye. I found it interesting to go back in time to the beginning of the pandemic and revisit those original questions most of us were asking ourselves at the time. While Conor Mitchell did an amazing job of creating a visual representation of the lockdown in San Francisco, he also managed to help me connect to his thoughts and feelings during a time when I was experiencing something similar, yet from a dry, barren desert. We are both coming from locations with different views, but as a human being I felt connected to his experience as if we were related. All readers (fortunately or unfortunately) will relate to “Lockdown” mentally, emotionally, and physically.