Notes From Ground Zero: an on-going photo documentary of NYC in the time of coronavirus
PART I - TWO PANDEMICS
by Photographer Ocean Morisset
We are fighting two pandemics simultaneously: Coronavirus and Racism. The risk we take out in the streets now, fighting for justice is worth the consequences we face. White allies understand that this fight is not about black vs. white, it’s about everyone vs. racists. They have chosen to shed the cloak of comfortability, to join Black people and affirm BLACK LIVES DO MATTER! Black people, who always have to edit and adjust themselves in white spaces for others, have never known this comfort.
When coronavirus reached our land back in March and totally disrupted our lives, I set out to make some pictures on the subject while home on Family Leave, caring for my mom-in-law. After nearly two months, I had to return to my hospital job in New York City, and as such, my documentation of Coronavirus would now focus on NYC. On the subways and the streets, I documented life during the pandemic. My images are almost always candid as I prefer to capture an authentic moment in time, as opposed to one that is presented to me. Knowing how coronavirus has ravaged the black community, my lens was mostly focused on the everyday aspect of what I saw within the community.
Then George Floyd was murdered on a video that shook me to my core. I actually didn’t watch the video until about five days later. I was infuriated, and when he called out “MAMA! MAMA!”, to his mother who had died two years earlier, my heart just broke; for him, for us, for all of us who need for the loving comfort only a mother knows how to provide, in times of duress.
I had been documenting protests since 1999, when 23 year-old Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, was shot forty-one times, and killed by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers. It’s also the year, I was first introduced to photography. Since then, my camera has become my tool of expression, and my choice of weapon for fighting injustice.
Documenting protests in both New York City and Peekskill has been challenging in many ways due to social distancing guidelines and having to wear a mask, especially during these warmer days. However, I could be no where else but in the here and now, lending my voice, and my eye, to the epic time in history.
Ocean Morisset is a self-taught , award-winning photographer with nearly twenty years of experience specializing in Photojournalism and Documentary photography. A self described "humanitarian-with-a-camera", Ocean also explores Fine Art photography and engages with a wide range of subjects in life, though his passion remain in telling stories with photos, captured candidly. Ocean often uses his iphone to capture fleeting moments, using the stealth of a ninja and a zen-like sensitivity towards his subjects. The iphone allows him to get close, remain stealthy in his approach,and capture intimate moments, that tell the story of the human condition.
Ocean’s choice of subject matter reveals his humanitarianism, as he has a keen eye for the unnoticed and under-appreciated aspects of life, and presents them in a way that the viewer takes hold of the image for their own self-reflection.