In Spain, Photographers Come Together To Tell The Full Story Of The Pandemic

Apr 22, 2020
Originally published on April 22, 2020 11:03 am

In Spain, one the nations hardest hit by the coronavirus, a group of photographers from around the country have started a collaborative feed of images to document daily life during the pandemic.

#Covidphotodiaries is an Instagram project which was launched in mid-March and has gained thousands of followers.

The photos and detailed narratives in the captions aim to tell a complete story of the pandemic — showing scenes from hospitals, volunteers delivering food, a worker pushing a coffin down morgue hallway and people dancing on the roof of their home in Madrid to escape the monotony of confinement.

A few of the photographers reflect on the challenges of doing their job in unprecedented circumstances — all the while dealing with fears of infecting loved ones.

José Aguilera, 84, eats his breakfast at his home in Seville. Protective gloves are part of the new landscape of the everyday life.
Susana Giron

Susana Giron

At first, I felt afraid that if I went out on the street to take photos, I could infect my parents, whom I visit a lot. I've been taking extreme health precautions to be able to continue working as photojournalist while being a daughter to them.

I see my parents every day, but there is no physical contact. Once, when I wasn't sure I had strictly followed the safety rules, I kept away from them for 15 days. If this pandemic is doing anything, it is making us think collectively and not as individuals. I have to consider the repercussions of my actions on others.

I've been moving around a lot in rural areas of the southern region of Andalusia. I can feel how afraid people there are becoming infected. But at the same time, I see an impressive wave of solidarity, of everyone wanting to help and contribute in whatever way they can. I think this crisis is bringing out the best in everyone. It affects my own work too, because people understand what I'm doing and they want to be part of it.

Time passes slowly for José Aguilera, 84, without being able to enjoy his two favorite hobbies: watching soccer and playing dominoes. He also can't go to the senior center as he usually does on a daily basis in Seville.
Susana Giron

Anna Surinyach

I photographed the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. There was a lot of suffering. People were forced to isolate, entire families died, children were orphaned by the hundreds and relatives couldn't say good-bye to their loved ones. Photographing that epidemic was an enormous professional challenge for me: I didn't know how to capture in images what people were going through in real life.

I never imagined something similar happening in my own country. Perhaps that's the product of a mindset of Western superiority and this pandemic demonstrates that that everyone is vulnerable to this new virus.

My initial doubts and fear of the pandemic were rapidly transformed into an insane desire to go out and photograph what was happening in the city where I live, Barcelona.

It is clear that the pandemic will be remembered for years, if not decades, and it is essential to document and recount what we are living through.

Healthcare workers in the ICU of German Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona. Many patients develop a type of pneumonia that requires them to be turned onto their stomachs so they can breathe better. Many healthcare workers are needed to do this safely.
Anna Surinyach
The home of an elderly man in Barcelona who stays indoors except to hang clothing and feed the pigeons.
Anna Surinyach

Judith Prat

From the start of the health crisis and especially when the state of emergency was declared, I was sure that we were living through something that was going to leave a mark on our lives as individuals and as a society.

There was a lot of doubt in the early days and I found it hard to position myself in the new role that was required of me as a citizen. Isolation. It sounded as strange as it was alarming. Suddenly, you had to think about everyone's safety, and each of us was responsible for the safety of those around us. I haven't seen my mother since the state of emergency was declared.

When it came time to be a photojournalist, it was a challenge. I had to operate on the assumption that I could be a threat to the people I wanted to photograph. But I soon realized that I just had to do what I always do; take all possible measures to document what's happening without putting anyone at risk.

Houses of worship have been closed since the declaration of a state of emergency in Spain. Rev. Santiago Aparicio of the Santa Engracia Church in Zaragoza offers a glimpse of a church service he conducts every day behind closed doors and records on his mobile phone.
Judith Prat
A fishmonger in Zaragoza's Central Market taking a break. Public markets are under orders to enforce social distancing and avoid the usual large crowds at food stalls.
Judith Prat
Health workers at the Hospital Clínico in Barcelona go out in the street and respond to the citizens who have been showing gratitude by applauding from their balconies and windows during the coronavirus outbreak.
José Colon

Javier Fergo

When the COVID-19 crisis began unfolding over in Italy, I had the feeling we were living through something historic.

The first days of isolation at home were tough. It wasn't clear yet if I'd be able to go out and document what was happening. I would spend the day watching the street from my window. Then the government clarified that the press was essential. That's when I began to document what was happening in my city and province.

I try to be as safe as I can with social distancing, wearing masks and gloves and always having hand sanitizer. When I get home, I undress quickly, put all my clothes in the washing machine and jump in the shower. I also clean my photographic equipment.

In my area in southern Spain, I have encountered many problems gaining access to key places of relevance to this pandemic, such as hospitals and cemeteries. It feels as if Spain is living up to its tradition of denial, of sweeping embarrassment under the rug.

These are hard times and people are afraid.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit
Since the Spanish government declared a state of emergency on March 14, residents of cities have been applauding from their balconies daily at 8 p.m. to show gratitude for medical staff and other workers on the front lines. But in some places the number of people participating in the applause dropped after a few days. This picture was taken in the southern city of Jerez on March 24.
Javier Fergo