COVID-19 has spared no part of the world, but lockdowns have looked different for everyone.
Journalists, archivists, historians, and everyday people will spend years trying to understand the wide-reaching impacts of this time on every age group and location around the world. Images from the pandemic hold their own secrets and their own stories, too, some speaking for themselves while others elude interpretation.
Perhaps the defining image of COVID-19 is emptiness. Empty theatres, empty streets, and empty schoolyards form eerie signs of loss. But then, there is also overflow: Protests spilling out onto the streets, hospitals overwhelmed, hazmat suits, crowded Zoom screens.
These images are just a small fraction of a year's worth of unbelievable sights. But each tells their own unique and unforgettable story, and provides a snapshot into a time that will someday be history, but for now is still far too real.
Italy was one of the earlier countries to completely shut down, and a year later, it's headed into another lockdown. The above photo was taken three weeks after the Italian government mandated its first lockdown, in April 2020.
New York, New York
The unforgettable images from New York City won't leave our minds anytime soon. In the early days of the pandemic, Times Square was shockingly empty. A year later, Broadway is still dark, but it's unlikely the Square will ever be this empty again.
Early on, people were trying all manner of desperate cleaning measures to eradicate the virus. Above, volunteers from Kenya governor Mike Sonko's privately funded Sonko Rescue Team fumigate the streets.
Early on in the pandemic, balconies quickly became sites of rare connection as images of people singing and cheering from their balconies became evidence of a new kind of kinship amidst disaster. Above, in Ronda, Spain, neighbors celebrated a couple's engagement after a proposal occurred on the balcony.
Austria - Priest conducting mass
The pandemic has forced all manner of events to go virtual, including religious services. Here, a Roman Catholic priest prerecords mass in an empty church in Austria. Seats are filled by photos of homebound parishioners, and videos of the service are released at night.
Volunteers played an outsize role in helping keep people safe from COVID around the world. Here, volunteers give out cleaning supplies to refugees in Somalia's Barwako camp.
Hazmat suits and protective gear formed shocking images at the start of the pandemic, and here, medical volunteers donned yellow suits to dispose of protective gear. It's easy to forget the desperation and fear of early days, before testing was more streamlined, when healthcare workers put it all on the line each day.
La Grande Mott, France
Different public areas have tried different approaches to keeping people socially distant. Here, in France, a woman sunbathes alone on a beach inside a siphoned-off area meant to keep her apart from everyone.
The death toll from COVID has been unimaginable, and the photos—of suffering, of death, and of burials—are haunting. Here, a cemetery in Brazil bears countless fresh graves.
An employee disinfects Indonesia's Jaya Ancol Dream Park as fish swim above.
Houston, Texas ICU
There's a whole world of terrifying photos from COVID-19 hospitals—exhausted healthcare workers, dying patients or patients nearing death, and so much PPE define these photos as healthcare workers desperately tried to keep up with a deadly and mutating disease.
World leaders Zoom
Even world leaders have been relegated to Zoom. Above, world leaders meet to discuss the pandemic; the scene was photographed in Austria. Seeing Justin Trudeau, Xi Jinping, and Donald Trump all appearing in their own little poorly cropped Zoom boxes shouldn't be as disorienting as it is.
Amazonas Forest, Brazil
Amazon workers respond to COVID
Some communities in the Amazonas Forest are best reached by boat, so here, a team of local and MSF health workers carry out routine screenings on the river.
Homelessness and isolation in London
The pandemic has looked very different for unhoused people. Here, a man in London shouts out the Prime Minister in an era where systemic inequality has become impossible to look away from.
In Myanmar, two healthcare workers ride a golf cart in the rain.
The Great Empty
For a brief moment during early lockdowns, subway stations sat empty. The New York Times called this period "The Great Empty" and the photos are haunting images of a society frozen in its place.
Moscow Covid performance
Artists and performers have been hard-hit by the pandemic, and chilling scenes of empty theatres and barren concert halls will live on for a long time in our minds. Here, a musical duo in Moscow perform to an empty concert hall.
Uttar Pradesh, India
Coronavirus lockdown India
Long lines for free food defined many people's COVID-19 experiences. Here, people leave their shoes to hold their places in a socially distanced line for food at an isolation center in Uttar Pradesh.