Covid Entries and June Pictures: A History
Mid-March to Mid-November 2020
The Covid Entries and June Pictures: A History
Mid-March to Mid-November 2020
On Monday, March 9th, 2020, Mayor de Blasio announced sixteen confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New York City. On Friday the 13th, I made an entry in Delayering, my project chronicling the ongoing aftereffects of 9/11, stating that the nascent Covid-19 virus, which arrived in New York from Europe, was expected to have an impact on the scale of the 9/11 attacks. By week’s end, that impact was projected to be far worse.
A need or desire to capture what was going on around me arose again, just as it did after 9/11 with Delayering. Gradually, I started to think more about what later became The Covid Entries. I had no plan and was very reluctant to start something new since my collection of unfinished projects was already ample.
I started to write daily. Four days later, on March 17th, I started to take daily photos and considered combining them with the short essays to be “entries.” Four days after that, I made a voice recording as a more immediate record of all that was happening and not happening.
On April Fool’s Day, I invited some longtime Box 3 Productions readers to receive these Covid Entries. Later I extended the invitation to people who reached out (with worry) about conditions in New York during the earliest days of the pandemic, when the city was the epicenter for the virus in the United States. Those incoming calls had the same feeling as the ones I’d received during the days shortly after 9/11.
The first Covid Entry was sent on April 4th, three weeks after it was recorded on March 14th. The idea of ending the mailings on Bastille Day arose just before sending that first entry. The three-week delay between recording and sending coupled with an every-other-day mailing schedule increased the gap between the writing and reading. The experience of each entry evolved from reading “almost news” to reading “almost history.”
On Easter Sunday, the first “Special Entry” was sent. It included photos of boarded-up stores in Soho. Five Special Entries were sent, each one was created and sent with no delay between recording and sending.
On May 27th, Special Entry-Mid marked the midpoint of the mailings. It included notes about the project, announced a spring break, and explained that after the break, the mailings would change from every other day to every fourth day.
On May 25th, as millions of people watched the slow-motion execution of George Floyd, everything changed again. We experienced another shock to our system, this one even more unexpected than the pandemic. It is impossible to decouple the fallout of that killing of an unarmed Black person from the tenderizing effect the pandemic had already had on the population.
In fewer than three days of protest and looting, the New York City streetscape refashioned itself with the addition of hundreds of thousands of square feet of plywood. The hushed city was transformed by another quick and unimaginable change, again at a colossal scale. After two-and-a-half months of dramatic quiet, the New York City Police, the largest police force in the world, stepped up quickly–but not as quickly as storefronts all over the city were boarded up. Neither reaction was very effective.
The seemingly endless amount of clean plywood provided perhaps the largest blank canvas the world has ever seen. In Soho, crisp centenarian cast iron poked through the omnipresent new sheathing, encouraging a fresh appreciation of the city’s historic metalwork. Details of the iron ornament provided a visual and geographic anchor to the pictures I started taking on the morning of June 1st. A new project was born.
The relaxed four-day mailing schedule for The Covid Entries provided space for a new, totally unexpected series, The June Pictures. The first June Picture was sent on June 17th. The pictures were shared every other day, on days when a Covid Entry would have appeared. Everyone receiving The Covid Entries also got The June Pictures. The pictures were later posted on Box 3 Production’s Instagram.
On June 13th, after the unheard-of NYC curfew was lifted, Special Entry-Post Break was sent. It offered an up-to-date glimpse of the pandemic’s plywood and protest atmosphere and included a series of evolving paintings at one shop on Spring Street. A lot of artists were at work in those early June days, both in Soho and beyond. For the first time in its more than forty years, Box 3 Productions had two related projects being shared simultaneously.
The final Covid Entry, #52, was sent at the end of October, and the Special Entry-Final Joker was sent on December 1st, while regular mailings of The June Pictures continued until November 1st. The final June Picture, along with a link to all the June Pictures, was sent on December 5th, 2020.
In the late winter of 2021, The Covid Entry pages were updated to provide navigation for people who did not receive the serial mailings. A collection of “selected” entries was created along with galleries of all images and audios.