Sandra Döhnert Bourne’s byline is usually on a CL gallery of concert photos, but like so many of us, the St. Petersburg photographer found herself restless as local safer-at-home orders went on.
“Over a month and a half ago, when all the talk about the COVID-19 started to gain momentum, my husband, our child and I went out for a bike ride for what we were considering our ‘last hurrah,’ a family picnic at Northshore Park,” Döhnert Bourne explained. “There, I mentioned how I would miss seeing our community the way it was—vibrant, with tons of things to do and places to visit, lots of new small businesses opening, and most of all, the people that make St. Petersburg my favorite place I’ve ever lived.”
So she reached out, and came back with “I Miss Us, St. Pete: A social distance photo essay from afar.”
The more than three-dozen photos are heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time. They remind us of the lives we had. They make us look forward to whenever—and however—we safely emerge from all of this.
And while most of the shots are of St. Petersburg-ers, Döhnert asked if she could come take socially distant snaps of CL’s staff. My initial reaction to that inquiry was, “Man, does this skeleton crew have enough time to get together to do that?,” but as the Q&As starting on p. 25 point out, the answer is a resounding “yes.” It turns out that our tired bones needed it—and needed Döhnert Bourne's essay.
As the governor eyes slowly opening the state—while others, like the Gadsden flag-waving crowd, rush to get back to work in the name of “freedom”—right now is the best time to remember what it’s been like to slow down, look at your loved ones in the eye or long for the embrace of your friends who live just down the street.
There is time to learn with your kids (using the help of St. Pete-based Wee Gallery, which designed this week’s cover). You should take that hour to write music and get better at your instrument (like JudyAnne Jackson), and there’s always a moment to ask your friends and neighbors about how they’re doing. Make an extra minute or two to really listen to the people in front of you—and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Most families CL talked to in this issue were afraid that the world would forget what these weeks were like and go back to old habits like driving too fast and too much, rushing through grocery queues, and having a calendar so busy that we couldn’t actually live. As shitty as this all is, there are bright spots to try and hold onto. Döhnert’s photos remind us of that.
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay is gratefully running Döhnert Bourne’s photos in print and online, and reaching out to many of the subjects as the weeks go on. Keep visiting cltampa.com and our photos section for more, then head to sandrasonik.com to read Sandra’s own conversations with her neighbors and yours.
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