Dale Butterill


60 Days Under the Sign of Covid-19
A Book
8″ x 11″

Artist Statement

“You won’t know what the story is until you put all your photographs on a board or table and see what you’ve shot. Your best photographs are not necessarily the story.” Alison Morley, teacher, International Center of Photography (ICP), NYC.

When it became apparent that citizens of every country in the world were going to suffer through a pandemic, I had to do something. My generation and class have lived a comfortable lifestyle with few barriers in our pursuit of our personal goals. The pandemic changed our casual feeling of comfortability, replacing it with fear, anxiety and uncertainly about our future. The pandemic arrived in full force 6 months ago and those early feelings hang on.  Now we grapple with new unknowns. Will children get sick if they return to the classroom? When will the next surge happen? Will it coincide with flu season? How many more lives will be lost? Will there be a vaccine soon? The world as we knew it has been rocked by Covid-19. The end is nowhere in sight.

As a photographer, I decided to document the changes in my neighbourhood, Bloor West Village, Toronto over a finite period of time. My plans were simple, go out every day and take Covid-related pictures. Shortly after I began, I learned of an online course at the ICP on storytelling and photography. I enrolled and decided to make a photo book.

Alison’s instruction that the story emerges from the photographs, clashed with one of my preconceived ideas. In the early days of the virus, war imagery was frequently used to describe the ‘battle with the invisible enemy.’ The effort required to defeat the ‘enemy’ was likened to the unified front of Canadians during WW II. To see myself as ‘fighting’ a war provided a meaningful connection to my father, an RAF navigator during the second world war.

Despite the pandemic war rhetoric I was unable to incorporate this construct into my photo story. When I printed the photographs, they revealed another parallel theme: the emergence of spring, nature’s counterpoint to the darkness of Covid-19. The first photograph in the book was taken mid-March in High Park. It shows a colourless patch of woods (see inside of dust jacket). Yet within the project’s timeframe, the natural world exploded into full colour, leaf and bloom as the grim pandemic marched on, reaping sickness and death.

For today’s generations, the pandemic is a defining moment. We shall share our stories for years to come. Sixty Days Under the Sign of Covid-19 bears witness to a small slice of this historic time.

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