After an eighteen year career as a broadcast journalist, I scooted behind the camera and became a photographer! While I love photographing portraits in exquisite light and radiant color, I have never quenched my constant thirst for capturing news!
I carry some sort of camera with me at all times and photograph everyday life in black and white as it plays out before me. This is how my @streetphotosjillwellington Instagram account began.
In early March of 2020, we started hearing about a virus coming from China. News headlines blared the virus had spread to Detroit with new warnings to not gather with people or the new corona virus could spread. “Stay inside except to shop for essential items!” But, at the grocery store...a scary sight frightened us...empty shelves!
Within a week, my daughter Lindsay, a high school guidance counselor in Holt, Michigan called to say the schools were closing for a month. Wow! Each day brought confusing new warnings and closures.
All of us were shell-shocked at the sudden thud in our lives! While at the grocery store, I began to tap into my journalism instincts that compelled me to snap photographs with my phone. I felt the utter importance of capturing this time in our history. I began to take photos everywhere and shot whatever was in front of me. The grocery shelves emptied fast as fear spread and panic buying ignited.
The biggest oddity: People bought up toilet paper in bulk! A frightening frenzy of panic buying…what happened to all the toilet paper?
We struck gold when a new shipment arrived while we were in the store!
More and more people donned masks and navigated through our new normal...
meat counters low or empty.
One rainy Saturday morning at the end of March, I scooted over to our grocery/department store Meijer early in the morning to grab some items for dinner. I was smacked with a foreboding sight. A line of people spaced several feet apart stretched across the front of the store that was usually open for business twenty-four hours a day! The scene reminded me of the depression era bread lines.
Carts were sanitized, and Xs taped on the floor marked a six-foot of distance between customers!
Newspapers shouted dire headlines especially from Detroit one of the worst hit cities in America.
Michigan’s governor Gretchen Whitmer issued stay-at-home orders, and business closures. Those that remained open, prioritized safety from erecting plexi-glass barricades between the customer and clerks, and posting safety signs.
Michigan also prohibited customers from purchasing non-essential items. The merchandise was in the store, but we couldn't buy any!
Mother's Day was strange because most of us could not visit our moms in person! Frightening headlines bombarded us from every angle!
My goddaughter Alexis Hagan was on the front lines of the pandemic in Detroit as a physician’s assistant. I sewed her some hair covers. I also sewed a few masks as, eventually, masks were required in public buildings.
Traffic diminished on roadways while playgrounds and swimming pools loomed eerily empty.
The security guard at MBS airport in Freeland was lonely as flights were
cancelled or never scheduled at all!
In Owosso, 77-year-old Paul Manke opened his barbershop against the state shut-down order declaring he was about to lose his business. “I have the right to make a living!” Supporters came for haircuts and protested outside of his barbershop. Reporters interviewed him, and the case made international headlines. The state suspended his license saying the open barber shop was creating a public health concern, but later his license was reinstated.
In late May, to add to our misery, heavy rains pounded mid-Michigan which eventually collapsed the Edenville Dam. Millions of gallons of water from Wixom Lake gushed down river to Sanford Lake, overflowed the Sanford Dam then dragged houses, boats, docks and debris down the Tittabawassee River devastating Midland and eventually flooding parts of Saginaw!
Eleven-thousand people rushed to evacuate. Two huge lakes were GONE in an instant!
Combined with the covid pandemic, life in Mid-Michigan was exhausting, puzzling and downright frightening!
On May 25th, a Minneapolis police officer held his knee against the neck of George Floyd during his arrest killing Floyd. The country exploded with outrage and violence. Protests erupted in cities all over the country. Black Lives Matter became the battle cry and I attended two rallies in Saginaw. I would not have gone if I feared they would turn violent. I was relieved Saginaw’s rallies remained peaceful with positive exchanges with police officers. But, violence, looting and protests continued throughout the summer in other big cities outside Michigan.
During the summer, the presidential election heated up and I was determined to photograph both sides. I was a journalist back when we told all angles of a story and let the people decide what to think for themselves. The democratic party headquarters in Bay and Saginaw Counties sold campaign signs for Biden.
In early September, the Saginaw County Republican Party organized a boat parade down the Saginaw River past downtown Bay city.
On September 10th, President Trump flew into MBS airport in Freeland, Michigan for a rally, just ten minutes from my home. I immediately snagged tickets because I wanted to document history. Ever since my friend’s dad got me into a Nixon rally when I was ten years old, I have endeavored to see as many presidents as possible in person! Seeing Barack Obama was still on my bucket list.
My husband and I arrived at 1:30 pm for Trump’s 7pm rally. The venue was already packed with supporters and the energy sizzled when Trump landed and appeared on the steps of Airforce One. I stood on aching feet for his 90-minute speech, but it was worth it to see, in person, the 8th president in my lifetime! I tried to be as creative as possible using my camera phone, no big cameras allowed.
In September, youth sports kicked off with new guidelines for safe play in times of covid. Masks ruled the field and sidelines.
High school football players attached plastic guards to their helmets, while spectators were limited and required to wear masks.
In late October, I learned Barack Obama was coming to Flint to campaign with Joe Biden. Finally, my chance to see him and cross that off my president bucket list! I struggled to find the location for the rally, but finally learned it was being held at Northwestern High School. I drove there and got in the line of cars, but was told it was by invitation only. I took my place among about one-hundred supporters who had also found the venue, and stood outside as the motorcade entered.
Halloween brought masks of all kinds, and many sought alternative trick-or-treat. The Saginaw Farmer’s Market handed out candy, and Hoyt Park in Saginaw hosted a drive-through trick-or-treat.
On November 3rd, voting began at 7 am. A line curled around the public library at my precinct.
On the election evening, I visited both the Democrat and Republican headquarters in Saginaw County to see what was happening. The Democratic headquarters was dark, after deciding not to gather because of covid. Here was the scene at the Republican headquarters.
As November marched on, covid cases spiked and Governor Whitmer ordered three weeks of new restrictions. This included a limit on home gatherings to two households at a time which stretched into Thanksgiving. Should we buy the big turkey?
Our annual gathering of twenty-six relatives dropped to just four! My husband and I invited his parents to share the meal. It was sad to not visit with our huge loving family, but we were extremely thankful for the many blessings in our lives.