In Place | Portraits of a Pandemic - Selection

Alon asked me to write the foreword to this book back in September 2020. And of course I was flattered, honored and thankful. I mean, I happen to love and respect Alon so much as an artist and as a human being, so this was going to be a real pleasure for me to do. And then September ended and we rolled into October and the world was still collapsing in slo-mo, and America was going through its own personal hell - a vicious election and a deadly virus all at once. And I was searching for meaning, looking for peace and a place to hide from Covid and winter and everything else.

 

And all the while Alon was waiting for this foreword. And every other day I told him it would arrive in his inbox. But I couldn’t get it together. I even thought of taking an Adderall to help me focus to get it done. And then I started to panic. Can I do it? Why did he ask me to write this? This wouldn’t be the first panic attack I’ve had with Alon. I remember being in the back of a minivan on the New Jersey Turnpike on a Saturday night, heading to a concert I didn’t want to see, having a panic attack that I was convinced was a heart attack, while Alon sat up front calming me. I don’t remember all that much from that night, I’ve successfully blocked it out, but I do recall Alon being the perfect person to be with during a panic attack. He’s like a gentle tonic. But with a sense of humor. He’s also a very kind person. Non-threatening and trustworthy. Open and honest. And I mention this now because I see these qualities reflected in his photographs and in the way people respond to his lens.

 

In these works, Alon invites us to meet Californians quarantined in their homes - perhaps having panic attacks of their own. And yet in these surreal and strange days, and in Alon’s presence, albeit 6 feet away, his subjects appear relaxed and comfortable. Even happy to see him. I get that. And so Alon manages to capture the best in people. And he listens, allowing them to tell their own stories with no sense of interference or intrusiveness. Only a sincere, mindful interest. So there’s this honesty to his work that I find remarkable and touching. He introduces us to people in a way that feels personal and intimate, casual and with no pretense. And after each picture and story, we feel like his subjects are no longer strangers to us. They could be our friends. For me this is what makes Alon’s photographs so brilliant. They unify us at a time when we need unity as much as we do a vaccine. There’s no other photographer I can think of who can connect with people under these circumstances like Alon does. To me his work is an example of the most beautiful, authentic storytelling. And in years to come, when we look back, we are all going to be so grateful to him for documenting these times in such an artful yet guileless way.

Ronald Wohlman

October 2020

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