'It has become our sanctuary': The calming power of nature in a pandemic

Pictures capture the solace that people are finding in the outdoors.

By Rachel Hartigan
Published 14 Apr 2020, 15:05 BST
Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden: On an evening walk, photographer Acacia Johnson and her partner discovered an old boat stranded on top of the highest hill in their neighborhood. The boat prompted some questions, she says: "How did we get here? How do we get back? But also: What can we see from up here that we couldn't see when things were normal?"

Photograph by Acacia Johnson

The COVID-19 pandemic may have shut down much of the human-controlled part of the world but, thankfully, nature hasn’t gotten the message. Birds still chirp, flowers burst into bloom, breezes sway the trees, and people drink in as much of the outdoors as their local rules allow. The streets are empty, but the parks—where they’re open—are crowded.

Photographers, largely confined to their homes like everyone else, capture this yearning for nature. In Kuala Lumpur, a photographer pines for the lush tropical life beyond his windowpane. In Topanga, California, a family saves their walks for dusk, when all the neighbours have gone inside. In Amman, Jordan, a photographer looks for solace in the sky; in Istanbul, another discovers it in the water. And a young boy in a Johannesburg township finds beauty in the wildflowers along a barbed wire fence.

How do we experience nature when our access to it becomes limited? National Geographic and Magnum Photos photographers bring you a global look at how coronavirus is affecting the worlds they see inside—and just outside—their windows. (See how they captured families adapting to a world changed by coronavirus.)

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has resulted in most Magnum photographers being restricted in their movements. As part of a broader photographer-led response, a new series “Diary of a Pandemic” will present selections of new work, while "Quarantine Conversations," will present Magnum photographers in frank and unedited dialogues about work, current affairs, and everything in-between. Follow Magnum Photos on Instagram.

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