A Ford City shop asked Windsorites to capture the pandemic in 19 photos. Here are some of the snaps

Empty playgrounds, light streaming through blinds and an abandoned mask lying on the ground sum up the pandemic experience for some Windsorites, who captured these scenes in a series of photos. 

Images capture uncertainty, hopefulness and a dystopian-looking city

Residents of Windsor were asked to capture the city amid the pandemic in19 photos, in a contest hosted by a Ford City shop. (Submitted by Justin Elliott and Gerry Kaiser)

Empty playgrounds, sunlight streaming through the blinds and an abandoned mask lying on the ground sum up the pandemic experience for some Windsorites, who captured these scenes in a series of photos. 

The images convey moments of stillness, the contrast between light and dark and offer evidence of a region forging ahead in the most uncertain of times. 

Co-organizer of the 19 photo contest, Michael Weber, says he sees themes of loneliness, isolation and "issues around one's sense of freedom and entitlement."

"A lot of people expressed dismay about a closed border, there was a lot of photos of downtown Detroit from across the river," he said with a laugh. 

Weber co-owns Pressure Drop, a local Ford City business that also operates as a cafe and bar. 

He told CBC News that the company was looking for new and interesting ways to engage with customers knowing that 2021 was likely going to be another unexpected business year. Out of this planning, came the photo contest. 

One of Justin Elliott's 19 photos. Elliott ranked first in the photo contest. (Submitted by Justin Elliott)

The rules were simple; submit 19 photos that sum up the pandemic 

Why 19 specifically? Weber said "because COVID-19" and it seemed like the right amount to "allow people to create a narrative." 

Out of 30 submissions, judges from Windsor and Detroit selected three winners last week: Justin Elliott, 1st place, Garth Jackson, 2nd place, and Gerry Kaiser, 3rd place.

'Underlying uncertainty'

In an email to CBC News, Elliott said the photos represent, "a heightened awareness of my immediate surroundings during lockdown. I used these images to show a calmness, but with an underlying uncertainty." 

One of Justin Elliott's 19 photos. (Submitted by Justin Elliott)

One of the judges, Guy Schuil, described Elliot's pictures as making people, "confront the danger of too much time."

"Our perception of the objects surrounding us begins to blur as words do when saying them in constant repetition," Schuil told CBC News in a message. 

Of all the submissions, Weber said the following was his favourite because it, "really conveyed that sense of being stuck inside and ... staring at objects that you wouldn't normally notice, for a prolonged period of time." 

Pressure Drop co-owner Michael Weber says this was his favourite of the photos as it represents getting lost in objects around you that you never noticed before. (Submitted by Justin Elliott)

'Piece of sunlight'

Coming in 2nd place, Jackson submitted images of life beyond the confines of one's home. 

This first photo is a September performance by the band Cellos in the County. 

"We all had a great time, distanced but enjoying live music again ... this picture is reflective of the whole feeling that day," Jackson said. 

Garth Jackson says his series of photos was focused on being outdoors. He said this was at an outdoor music concert in the county. (Submitted by Garth Jackson)

This next photo, Jackson called takeout.

"I was stopped to get take out Pho on Pelissier [Street]. I noticed the clouds, put my food on the roof then realized, my food was the shot ... My friend Walter said this one affected him most, I'll trust his opinion," he said. 

Jackson said he thought the sky was the picture, but then realized it was his takeout food. (Submitted by Garth Jackson)

And finally, there's sunlight. Jackson said he was riding his bike a lot when the pandemic first began and that's when he took this one. 

"Nobody around, nothing open. I was struck by the colours and the piece of sunlight on the building on the left, but otherwise, it was pretty bleak," he said. 

The sunlight on the building in the left hand side of this photo is what inspired Jackson to take it. (Submitted by Garth Jackson)

'Dystopian feel'

Kaiser ranked 3rd in the contest. His photos take on an other worldly feel, with neon lights and distinct colours. 

The following photo of the Ambassador Bridge was published in the March 2021 edition of the Alberta Views magazine. 

"I set the image up during the initial shutdown ... when all the streets were mostly deserted. It has a dystopian feel to it and it symbolizes the fear of the new virus," Kaiser said in an email to CBC News. 

Gerry Kaiser says this photo was taken just a few weeks into the start of the pandemic in April 2020. (Submitted by Gerry Kaiser)

Looking for homemade signs, Kaiser said he spotted this one while driving around Amherstburg. 

When looking for homemade signs, Kaiser said he spotted this one in Amherstburg. (Submitted Gerry Kaiser)

"I was actually having a great time photographing [Windsor's] empty deserted streets ... I could sit outside in the city and not hear a sound ... Pure magic!," Kaiser said. 

A photo of emptiness and stillness in downtown Windsor, according to Kaiser. (Submitted by Gerry Kaiser)

Kaiser said he retired during the pandemic as the past year, "forced me to do an inventory of my life and change that which no longer worked or served me."

'Carefree life' has 'floated away'

Art teacher Sanja Srdanov also submitted more than a dozen pictures taken by some of her high school students that ended up getting featured on Pressure Drop's contest page. 

One of them was by Sandwich Secondary's Grade 12 student Morgan Maxey. 

"It portrays the idea that my carefree life as I know it has just 'floated away' and I can do nothing but stand by and watch it happen," Maxey wrote in a message to CBC News.

"The pandemic has halted my life and put an end to many of the activities that I enjoy ... and I am powerless to change it. All that I can do is stand by, on edge, accept it and ultimately move on."

She said the photo also "represents the many young people who are standing by and waiting to get their life back, teetering on the edge of sadness and hopefulness for the future." 

Maxey took this photo at Sandwich Secondary's school track in LaSalle. (Submitted by Morgan Maxey)

This next picture is of a spot in downtown Windsor taken by Sara Vitale, a Grade 11 student at Sandwich Secondary.

"[Photography] has helped me explore unknown areas and appreciate the architecture around my hometown ... I have gained a unique perspective of the world around me," she said. 

Vitale took this photo in downtown Windsor. (Submitted by Sara Vitale)

According to Weber, Pressure Drop will soon launch another photo contest called "That Time in Detroit." 


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