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Peter Turnley : The Human Face of Covid-19-New York City


It is one of Visa pour’s flagship exhibitions this year. Peter made a point of making a choice of images and adding this text to them!


This is a visual tribute to the humanity of all of the heroes and victims, often one in the same, that have been at the epicenter, New York City, of the World War against invisible enemy of Covid-19, these past two months.

As a documentary photographer I have covered most of the world’s major news stories, including most of the world’s wars, of the past 4 decades. I found myself in New York City when the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown began in March. The first day of the lock-down, I did what was most natural to me-I went out into New York with my camera. I was stunned and shaken by what I saw. I realized immediately that this was the first time I was going to witness a World War with an invisible enemy at “home”, and it became clear to me that this was going to impact every single person, and every person had a story. I immediately began a daily New York Lockdown Visual Diary.

Over the past 40 years, I have covered most of the important world news stories of geo-political importance, and most of the wars of the world. This is the first time I have covered a world war, with an invisible enemy. I have been a nomad over the course of these past 4 decades, rarely spending more than 2-3 weeks in one place. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, I have found myself in New York City, and like everyone, unable to travel, and subjected to a citywide lockdown. I go out almost every day since the beginning of the lockdown, always wearing a mask, keeping a careful social distance with everyone, and return “home” alone. I have felt that it is essential to document the human stories of this moment-the stories of the people I encounter, which are in turn also, in part, “our story”.

This has not been an assignment and I have not been working for any publication. This documentation has been very personal and I have kept an on-going visual diary that has been published almost every day on social media and has received worldwide response. In some ways, ironically, while this documentation has not been part of any professional assignment-in many ways- everything that has preceded in the 64 years of my life as a photojournalist-has prepared me to be present and document with my heart, what is certainly for most of us-the most important story of our lives.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in NYC, I have gone out most days, with my camera and notebook, always keeping at a careful social distance with all people, wearing a mask and gloves, and return to where I stay, alone. It is essential that at this moment in our collective life, that the stories of so many heroes and victims, of all dimensions, be documented, helping to bring us together now, and for memory.

New York City-which has been the epicenter of the coronavirus in the world these past two months-is a city of human beings-each with a name-an age-each with a life experience-each with a family that cares about them-and all, like each of us, are much more important than statistics, peaks, flattened curves-they are the heart and soul of this moment-and the heart and soul of our moment.

While these images and stories are from New York-they are in solidarity with every country in the world and every person in the world-all who have been in the middle of this war-truly a World War with an invisible enemy. Our human family worldwide finds itself in the middle of this crisis. This visual diary is also, our story. With love.

Peter Turnley




A new book, A New York-Paris Visual Journal-The Human Face of Covid-19 will be on sale only on Peter Turnley’s site in two weeks:






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