With the onset of the coronavirus epidemic, global enterprise staffers Maye-E Wong, photographer/editor, and Enric Marti, deputy director of photography – both relatively recent transplants to New York – found themselves in a city that had come to a sudden, disorienting standstill, faced with the challenge of photographing the absence of life in a city normally teeming with it.
Marti saw many potential photographs from his motorcycle, but he couldn't make them because he was driving. Maye-E, who had spent years working in highly controlled situations in North Korea, was used to shooting out the window or on the fly. So they teamed up, working in sync to create a shared vision of the city under lockdown.
“He would pause and point, and she would already have seen the shot,” Ted Anthony wrote in the accompanying text.
They made more than a dozen trips over three weeks through Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Photo editor Patrick Sison shot video and photos of the pair on the the bike, and digital producer Nat Castañeda, with the help Peter Hamlin’s illustrations, put together a video on the project.
Always in motion, they photographed a city gone to ground. The “drive by” photographs are raw, sometimes crooked and largely un-cropped. They capture ghostly pedestrians, seemingly post-apocalyptic vacant streets and shrouds of fog. The enemy is unseen – an invisible virus – but the threat of it appears in many eyes.
In one particularly haunting picture, a shirtless man is seen sitting on the ledge of a highway overpass, looking as though he might jump to his death. “He is on the edges and that's how a lot of people feel,” Maye-E explains. The choice is to “push on or give up.”
The all-formats package was complemented by a podcast and an AP Images gallery. The work was widely used by customers from New York to Taiwan, and well received with high engagement online.