Foot traffic

Sidewalk portraits of those who come by

click to enlarge Friends Nakiya Crawford, left, and Nia Davis. - PHOTO BY RICH SAAL
Photo by Rich Saal
Friends Nakiya Crawford, left, and Nia Davis.

Not long after Illinois issued a stay-at-home order in March, my neighbor's adult children were home, their college and work lives on hold for the moment. Almost every day they were on the driveway or in their yard playing soccer, shooting baskets or drawing chalk art with their younger siblings. It wasn't clear yet how long it would last or how hard it would get for so many people, but if you looked in the right place, it was possible to find a bright spot in the new, emerging pandemic world.

I live in Hawthorne Place, one of Springfield's lovely, walkable old neighborhoods under a cover of towering oak and sycamore trees where every house has a front porch that offers a safely distanced view of the world. After the order began, there was a noticeable increase in foot traffic. Moving down the street was a strung-out parade of families with baby strollers and toddlers, dog walkers, exercise walkers, runners and cyclists.

My background is in visual journalism and I had been thinking of how I should make note of what was happening. I put together a simple set on the sidewalk in front of my house, and waited. If people were willing, I'd shoot a picture and ask them what was new to them in this new world. This isn't about the frontline care providers, or the population that suffers the worst of the virus effects. They are well documented in other places. This is what I could see from my perch, the instances of new family rituals, togetherness. This is the bright spot that I saw.

Rich Saal is a Springfield-based editorial and commercial photographer and former photography editor of the State Journal-Register. He can be reached at rich@richsaal.com.

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