Spencer is in 8th grade at the local middle school. Stay At Home orders means he now has to navigate his homework mostly on his own with help from his mom, Erin. A single mom, Erin works from home in communications managing clients’ Covid-19 messaging while also managing her two kids’ schoolwork. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Life Under The Coronavirus Lockdown: A Neighborhood Portrait

A neighbor’s homemade sign warning anyone with cold symptoms to stay out. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Published by NBC News


As a photojournalist, I’ve covered disasters and conflicts around the world, yet never have I seen a disaster where everyone worldwide is simultaneously facing the same situation. People everywhere are socially isolated in an attempt to slow a terrorizing virus. As a result, our world has become so small. We no longer venture out for work, shopping, dining, socializing or entertainment. The Coronavirus has in essence, confined our lives to a tiny existence.

The neighborhood is now the center of life. 

With the vast majority of Americans ordered to stay at home, daily routines revolve around life in the neighborhood. What is going on behind the closed doors, in backyards and in the streets? It’s a shelter-in-place lifestyle where bedrooms have become schoolrooms, where backyards double as offices and hair salons, and where neighbors are far more engaged with one another, albeit with social distancing, in an effort to stay connected.

This neighborhood really hasn’t changed in the twenty-six years I’ve lived here, yet it’s very different now. 

The deafening silence of commuter-less mornings has replaced the steady barrage of speeding cars, while an abundance of noise erupts mid-afternoon as kids emerge in from homeschooling to ride their bikes down the middle of empty streets.

Vacated schools and shuttered local businesses has resulted in neighbors coming together to help one another in big and small ways. Neighborhood hairdressers have stepped-up to tame unruly hair, fitness coaches are helping their friends burn pent-up energy in the streets and local churches are reaching out in new ways to stay connected to their parishioners. And then there’s Esperanza.

Neighbors looking out for neighbors when disasters hit is nothing new. But Esperanza, who has lived in West Hills for twenty years, gave away 200 bags of protective overalls, masks and gloves without seeking any recognition. Her husband, she explained to me as I walked by, sells them but she wanted to do something for everyone in her neighborhood. So she just hung them on her fence with a sign that said, “Free: Please Take Only One,” and inserted a note to be safe and well.

As cities and states nationwide grappled with how best to restrict social interaction, Los Angeles quickly issued orders to close bars, restaurants, gyms and other non-essential businesses. That has deeply impacted the neighborhood by leaving many residents who own local businesses an uncertain future. But what about those who must to go to work as an employee of an “essential business?” Health care workers, nurses, doctors and first responders are all leading the battle to defeat Covid-19, but essential workers transcend those professions. My wife works for a large telecommunications company whose infrastructure is essential to keeping businesses open with high-speed internet lines facilitating the remote work everyone else is doing. Thus, she has to report to work every day. On the first day of a city wide order to stay at home, our morning walk at sunrise with the dog was eerily quiet and, perhaps appropriately, stormy. To say I was concerned was an understatement.

Those fortunate enough to have kept their jobs and pivoted to working from home also faced new struggles as life shifted to the lockdown. Single mothers like one neighbor, Erin, had to quickly adjust to her new role as teacher to her two kids while maintaining her professional responsibilities managing corporate brand messaging for clients dealing with Covid-19 situations. That’s not easy in a small home where the office and third grade schoolroom are suddenly merged into one.

As trying a time as this is, there seems to be a silver lining. This typically quiet, working class neighborhood has never seen so much life on the streets, and I suspect that’s the same in older, suburban neighborhoods built with space to live. It’s as if the closing of the gyms, bars, restaurants and temporary banning of sports leagues, not to mention the extra hours gained each day from not having to commute on the nation’s worst freeways, has brought neighbors out to discover one another for the first time. The wide streets and small homes built to serve post WWII factory workers means neighbors can go outside during lockdown and still adhere to social distancing guidelines. This little corner of Los Angeles does not see a lot of homes for sale, so neighbors tend to know each other. How is it we’re just discovering one another now?

It’s amazing how much has changed in my neighborhood, despite nothing at all really changing.

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All images: ©2020 Todd Bigelow/Contact Press Images. Please email Contact Press Images at mail [at] contactpressimages [dot] com or LicensingCompliance [at] ToddBigelowPhotography [dot] com with your licensing requests.

The New Normal: A neighborhood “quarantine” birthday party for a 8 year old boy. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A pastor leads a service at an empty West Hills church due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The service was recorded for distribution on Facebook so people could worship at home. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Erin works from home in communications managing clients’ Covid-19 messaging but now has to pull double duty as a teacher managing her two kids’ schoolwork under the Stay At Home order. Her daughter, Brooklyn, is in 3rd grade. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Keeping kids motivated throughout a school day is a challenge. Brooklyn, a top student in her 3rd grade class, receives tutoring at home via Zoom late in the afternoon. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Three weeks into the lockdown, Erin was furloughed from her job after 13 years and joined the millions of others across the country filing for unemployment. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Do Not Enter was the order by the nation’s second largest school district when they ordered all schools closed. This girl used the empty school parking lot as a playground. @Todd Bigelow

 

Hirad turned 8 years old and had a “quarantine” birthday party with friends and family. He inspects candy thrown from a passing car. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A rabbi in the neighborhood readies his shawl for morning prayers. He’s been in self-quarantine for almost two weeks after he was exposed to someone who was Covid-19 positive at a senior home where he works. The rabbi had developed a cold with fever and cough but the test came back negative for Coronavirus. He has been doing his morning prayers on the porch where he says he finds the quiet of the neighborhood beneficial. He also said he normally prays “in community” at the senior home but all community prayer has been stopped. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A young girl throws stuffed animals to her friend during a “drive-by” birthday party. ©Todd Bigelow

 

With no school or social gatherings permitted, this drive-by birthday party was the first time friends had seen each other in person in a month. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Air hugs with no contact have replaced real hugs during a drive-by birthday party. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A retired nurse sews face masks at home to give to working nurses, aides, family and friends in need. Each mask takes about 15 minutes to make, has a space to insert extra protection such as gauze and is washable. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A retired nurse tries on the finished face mask to see how it fits before starting another.  ©Todd Bigelow

 

A half-dozen teachers and aides in masks wait for parents of kindergartners to pick up their bags of schoolwork. Schools are unlikely to reopen this academic year. ©Todd Bigelow 

 

Teachers at Haynes Charter Elementary School hand-out schoolwork to parents for their kids to do at home. ©Todd Bigelow

 

As quarantine fatigue sets in, parents have begun to loosen restrictions and let kids get together, such as these two friends playing on a warm day in mid May.

 

As quarantine fatigue sets in, parents have begun to loosen restrictions and let kids get together, such as these two friends playing on a warm day in mid May.

 

Michael and his son after sprinting, doing push-ups and lunges on a steep street. Before the pandemic, work-outs were in a nearby gym. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Non-essential businesses like gyms were ordered closed, so people are taking to the streets for fitness. Vern, back center, opened his gym a few months ago and now has to meet students on a steep street instead. ©Todd Bigelow

 

With Los Angeles residents on locked down and stay-at-home orders, the wide and empty streets have become playgrounds for the kids. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A street vendor sells masks along Sherman Way for $5. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A street vendor sells masks along Sherman Way for $5. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Known in the neighborhood as “the mayor” because everyone knows him, he has underlying health issues & fears leaving home & catching the virus. He now sits by the door and talks to people walking by.  ©Todd Bigelow

 

A couple of friends turn a West Hills park into a driving range with clubs and plastic golf balls. The parks are only open for running, walking and jogging, but the closed golf courses and driving ranges leave few alternatives. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Two friends practice Muay Thai during a Friday morning workout on a driveway in West Hills. Both attend a gym that is closed during the pandemic. ©Todd Bigelow

 

This woman’s husband sells protective gear but she decided to package and give away 200 bags of PPE with gloves, masks and overalls to her neighbors. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Sidewalk messages abound in the neighborhood, reminding people to stay calm, stay at home and wash your hands.

 

A hair dresser from the neighborhood trying to make her rent now does house calls after the salon she worked at closed its doors. Her client, Irene, is in her eighties and limits her time out of the house. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Money in hand, a client sees the finished look after getting his hair cut in the hairdresser’s yard. The salon she works at was closed but she has to work to pay the rent, so she’s doing hair wherever her customers want. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Stocking his small SUV and parking it in Platt Village in West Hills, Richard hands out bags with food and essentials to those in need during the Covid19 crisis. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A homeless woman in peaks out from her tent as Richard hands out bags with food and essentials to those in need during the Covid19 crisis. ©Todd Bigelow

 

A sidewalk sign thanking doctors and nurses during the Covid19 crisis. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Trails at the west end of the neighborhood got crowded after all the gyms were ordered closed. The mayor soon after ordered that these trails be closed as well. ©Todd Bigelow

 

With all non-essential businesses closed, no one stuck for hours on freeways and no place to exercise, neighbors are increasingly walking the neighborhood. “Forest” tries to get his grandma to keep moving after she stopped to talk with others. ©Todd Bigelow

 

Sunrise on the first day of LA’s “Stay At Home” order was eerily quiet. No cars, no people. Despite orders to shelter in place, though, not everyone could stay home. Judy works for a major telecom company, considered an “essential business,” so she had to report to work. ©Todd Bigelow

 


About This Project:

The front lines of this fight to stop an out-of-control virus is in the hospital wards and ambulances, but the impact is everywhere. It’s in the stores, in the streets, in the homes & in the backyards. When Los Angeles residents were told to stay at home, I decided to photograph my neighborhood in an attempt to see how my community was dealing with changes to basic social functions such as schooling, work, socializing and even getting a haircut. I walked miles daily, talked to people and was warmly accepted by all. I used PPEs when required that I’ve long had from previous disasters including a face mask, bandana to cover the mask, latex gloves and overalls. I adhered to social distancing guidelines. 

 

Todd Bigelow Photography
2 comments on “My Life Under The Coronavirus Lockdown
  1. Muy buen trabajo !!! Nice Job Congrat!!

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