With his vibrant and dream-like streetscape photos, Baltimore-based photographer Isaiah Robert Winters has garnered the attention of thousands of followers on Instagram. The 30-year-old photographer shoots colorful portraits and lifestyle images in Baltimore and New York for big-name clients. But like many during the coronavirus pandemic, Winters has been forced to adapt his work to the changes brought on by this public health crisis.
His latest project is inspired by the last set of images he took just before Maryland’s stay-at-home-order was in place. The project, which he may title “Non-Essential”, will explore his own feelings on our different roles during this pandemic, Winters said.
See downtown Baltimore through his eyes, and read his thoughts on shooting the series below.
“When the seriousness of COVID-19 started to show itself, I decided fairly early on that I wouldn’t really venture out too much with my camera. If I wasn’t on assignment I wanted to make sure that I was doing my part to stay home and set the right example. I went on a few separate walks around town, leading up to the day I captured this last set of images. I would learn about thirty minutes after getting home that Governor Hogan had put a stay-at-home order in place that would go into effect that evening. We had clearly entered a new phase of battling this virus, and I am lucky enough that these last few images Downtown conveyed some of that.”
“I have always had a huge love for shooting architecture and cityscapes/streetscapes in major cities all over the World. A huge part of my work is highlighting some of the spaces that we interact with every day, as well as things that we take for granted in our daily lives.”
“With Baltimore being my home for almost the last decade, I’ve spent many days out walking the streets and exploring our very own beautiful Charm City. Baltimore is the reason that I was able to grow as an artist and really start to connect with other creatives and individuals here in the city.”
“I still remember years ago the first time I grabbed my camera and went out for a walk near Light Street; fascinated by the dance of midday light and the people walking in and out of it. When I went for a walk downtown last week I had no idea how eerie and emotional it would be to see the streets basically empty. I’d avoided leaving my home for a while so I hadn’t been able to really see how much changed in just a few days.”
The people are what make the space grand and alive.
Isaiah Robert Winters
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“As a photographer, I tend to find myself looking for those “decisive moments” and even when shooting travel and streetscapes there are times I wait for people to come in and out of frame. Having that sense of scale and perspective is something that I love including in my work. I’ve shot in many cities, but actually seeing Baltimore almost empty was something I never thought I’d see or have the opportunity to shoot.”
“My first thoughts were that I could capture whatever I wanted in these few moments and didn’t have to worry about blocking traffic or too many people “ruining” the shot. I slowly began to realize that the people are what make the space grand and alive. The thought that people were gone couldn’t escape my mind, even though I knew many were just inside those very buildings. Some of those people were probably watching me wondering exactly what I was doing.”
“In a city where normally you can just look down the street and feel like you’re witnessing tons of stories, it was quite jarring to see the roads/bike lanes and sidewalks deserted. My mind began to race with thoughts of isolation, along with other things like if our city’s homeless population had anywhere to safely practice social distancing or quarantine.”
“The few individuals I did see didn’t make me annoyed or worried but reminded me that this will eventually pass and we will all be able to interact in-person again in the future.”
“I know going forward when I can get back to taking photos and exploring new places I’ll be thinking about this time in Baltimore. I hope it won’t be easy for me to take others and the energy they bring to our shared public spaces for granted again. I may even take on a little of that Downtown rush-hour traffic just for fun.”
Isaiah Robert Winters is a local portraiture and lifestyle photographer based in Baltimore, MD. You can see more of his work on Instagram @isaiahrw or on his website http://www.isaiahrw.com/.