Opinion: Life through a new lens

Photography had become so ingrained in my weekly routine that I didn’t notice how much it mattered until COVID-19 largely kept me from shooting.

Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

Tuesday was the first day I left my house in two weeks. Stepping outdoors felt like entering another universe after being too paralyzingly anxious to even go for a walk.

But I brought my camera with me. I was the calmest I had felt in weeks when photographing my neighborhood and the flowers that I wasn’t aware had bloomed in it.

It was 70 degrees outside, something I surely wasn’t prepared for after sitting in my house for days on end. I saw people walking their dogs, playing outside with their kids, and riding bikes. Seeing the neighborhood through the lens of my camera felt foreign for the beginning of my adventure.

Halfway through my walk to the front of the neighborhood where I knew children had drawn and set up an “every little thing is going to be alright” sign, and 10 photos later, I felt at ease again.

Megan Conroy

I understand that all of these words come from a place of privilege. I am healthy and safe at my parent’s house in Pennsylvania. That being said, this period of time is still one of grief and loss for everyone in some way.

Photography is normally a part of my weekly routine. Whether it was scheduled shoots with my friends, adventures in downtown Iowa City with my camera, or men’s gymnastics meets, there has always been time on my weekly whiteboard calendar reserved for me and my camera.

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Taking photos keeps me sane in a lot of ways. For the past two seasons, I’ve taken photos at men’s gymnastics meets for the team. Gymnastics photos are one of the toughest kinds of photos I’ve learned how to take. I get one shot at each event for each gymnast.

At first, it was intimidating, but now I love the challenge. I also love having the opportunity to capture the moments of celebration after events, and after winning meets that will be remembered for a long time.

Megan Conroy

On the less athletic side of my photography, I still find myself in a state of happiness. I love the idea of capturing people in their truest essence in front of my Canon 5D Mark V.

Since the University of Iowa canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester on March 18, my life turned into a whirl of chaos, and I don’t think it’s stopped quite yet. Online classes take up a big portion of my life, as it likely would for any college student. I’ve been binging a lot of TV shows and spending too much time on my phone, but something was still missing: taking photos. During social distancing, taking photos of other people in person comes with a health and safety risk.

At first, I was too overwhelmed by simply existing in a time where the news made me nervous. I was taking photos on my phone of the sunsets out my window for the most part. The craving to take photos on my camera began to rise inside me. I started taking self-portraits before I realized that I’m not great at it. I wanted to learn how to perfect them before I took more. I started researching on YouTube how to take better self-portraits.

Megan Conroy
Morgan Schimek poses for a portrait in her kitchen over a FaceTime call.

Through my YouTube research and Instagram scrolling, I discovered FaceTime photoshoots. Consisting of a video call with a friend and photos taken either on my camera or through the live-photo option, these shoots have provided me with an outlet to take photos, as well as a chance to reconnect with the people I miss in this period of social distancing.

In a period of time where human connection feels severed, finding innovative ways to still do what I love has brought me some peace of mind. Going outside to capture the newly blooming flowers of spring, and coming home to edit them was an extremely grounding experience. Taking photos of my friends over FaceTime gives me something to do — something I can control when I snap photos how I want, then edit them how I want.

It may not be a gymnastics meet or a sunset shoot by the river with my friends, but it’s enough to ease the storm of anxiety I feel each day lately.