As I stepped off the bus in central Jerusalem last week, my first trip there for some time, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
After being subject to various flavors of lockdown — the 500-meter travel restrictions, then the 1-kilometer restriction, then essential stores only, then all stores in outdoor spaces — the streets of downtown Jerusalem are now an obvious choice as a shopping destination.
The restrictions of mask-wearing and keeping two meters away from others still apply, so I was interested to see how my beloved Jerusalem, who has survived so much in her long and strong history, was faring during this new Covid-19 reality.
It turns out the sounds and smells were all familiar (anyone for a pre-Hanukkah donut?), but the sights were punctuated with small yet pervasive differences, changes that the dastardly coronavirus has brought upon us.
Come and take a little walk around with me and my camera, especially those of you who are sadly unable to visit right now.
As you can see, what I found was a Jerusalem bustling with Covid-conscious activity: people queuing outside stores, keeping more or less to the two-meter markings taped on the sidewalk (and if not, being gently reminded to do so by a member of staff designated for the purpose), and almost everyone wearing masks.
The atmosphere was as lively as ever, buskers and protesters adding to the usual hubbub, with people perhaps even simply enjoying the chance to be outside in these cooler yet bright and sunny days which make Jerusalem’s winters one of the finest experiences of the year after the long, hot summer.
As a photographer, these scenes each caught my eye because of the interactions between people, the juxtaposition of various elements, or the combination of colors and textures. I like to find beauty in the ordinary. I know that what looks mundane to me may not to someone else.
When doing street photography, I think about what angle I’m taking the photo from and if I can change it at all to make it more interesting, for example bending down for a low perspective or looking for leading lines to draw the viewer in.
If I notice an interesting doorway or street sign, it’s often worth waiting there a few minutes until someone or something interesting enters the frame.
I was especially looking to document the differences we see now due to corona, and with the ever-changing regulations I’m happy to have preserved in pictures how life looks right now. Before long, the rules and regulations will no doubt change, and we’ll probably forget how things were today.
For those of you who are unable to visit Israeli shops, many are now offering their services online. A new, easily accessible English-language Facebook group is making it easier than ever to source Israeli products.
Here’s to hoping for healthier times when there will no longer be travel restrictions, and Jerusalem’s streets will once again be flooded with tourists from around the globe.
Andrea Brownstein is a photographer in the Jerusalem area, creating authentic images of people, their families, their events and their work. Click here to enter her website and here for her Instagram page.