About the Days Ahead | By Ingmar Björn Nolting
Whenever I think about getting sick, I feel fragile and my heart starts beating fast. It has always been like that. When COVID-19 rapidly spread around the globe in early 2020, I found myself waking up in a world that felt just as fragile. Countries closed their borders. People were urged to shelter at home. Public life started to shut down and within a few days, ordinary life had become unthinkable. My own fear had turned into the fear of a whole society. As a reaction, I started a road trip that took me 25.000 kilometers across Germany under strict precautions.
The „bunker“ in Göttingen under quarantine on June 20, 2020. The anger about the ordered quarantine leads to an escalation in the afternoon. Violent clashes break out between some residents and the police, in the course of which 11 police officers are injured. The residential complex is considered a so-called social hotspot. It was quarantined after a major corona outbreak in the cramped living conditions. About 120 of the 700 residents are infected. Previously, another residential complex in Göttingen made headlines as a corona hotspot.
Prof. Dr. med. Tobias Welte, Vice President of the Hannover Medical School, Dr. Martin Memming, Stephan Weil (SPD), Minister President of Lower Saxony and Colonel Manfred Schreiber during a press conference at the makeshift hospital in the trade fair halls in Hannover, Germany on April 4, 2020.
Members of the German Bundestag listening to the speech of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, on April 23, 2020. Distance regulations exist for the sessions of the Bundestag. „Nobody wants to hear this, but the truth is that we are not living in the final phase of this pandemic, but at the beginning,“ said Angela Merkel.
Soldaten der deutschen Bundeswehr beim Aufbau des Behelfskrankenhaus in der Messe Hannover waerend des Corona Lockdown am 4. April 2020. Engl: Soldiers are setting up the makeshift hospital in the halls of Hanover fair during the corona lockdown on April 4, 2020. Europe, Germany, Pandemic, Covid-19, Covid, army. || Around 45 soldiers are involved in the setting up of the makeshift hospital in the exhibition halls of Hanover on April 4. The costs of the project are still unclear.
My aunt Melanie Laufer (middle) during a dental treatment in Vlotho, Germany on April 29, 2020. Dentist Dörte Stübbe (left) has bought special protective helmets on March 19 to protect herself and her patients from the virus.
Stored Hospital beds for a new makeshift hospital for treating COVID-19 in an exhibition hall at the Hannover Messe trade fair in Hanover, Germany on April 4, 2020. Five hundred beds will be available across two halls. The makeshift hospital is to be used when all other possibilities are exhausted. In the exhibition halls, treatment facilities are to be created for 500 COVID-19 patients who do not require intensive medical treatment, but who can no longer be cared for at home due to the course of their disease. The photo was taken after a press conference.
Cameron Carpenter during the rehearsal for the livestream Easter concert in the Konzerthaus Berlin in Berlin, Germany on April 11, 2020. Due to the ban on events, the concert was held without an audience. The empty concert hall offered Carpenter new opportunities to position his tailor-made organ and loudspeakers. A concert of such acoustic quality would not have been possible in the presence of an audience, says Carpenter.
Dr. Volkhard Bangert visits a couple infected by COVID-19 in quarantine on November 10, 2020 in Gerolstein. Bangert returned from retirement at the beginning of the pandemic and has been working for the health department of the Vulkaneifel district since March. Every day, he drives up to 250 kilometers through the district and tests people in quarantine for COVID-19. Today On this day, he performed over 50 tests.
Rehearsal of the central memorial ceremony for the deceased in the Corona pandemic, Konzerthaus Berlin, April 17, 2021. With this act of state, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier would like to set an example together with representatives of the constitutional bodies and relatives of the deceased. “Let us speak about pain and suffering and anger. But let us not lose ourselves in recriminations, in looking back, but let us once again gather strength for the way forward, the way out of the pandemic, which we want to go and will go if we go it together,” says Frank-Walter Steinmeier in his speech.
During this unusual journey, I photographed on the frontlines and in the backyards of the evolving crisis in order to create a personal and comprehensive document of life during this historical period. “About the days ahead” reflects on a changing society, oscillating between collective isolation, fear, despair, and the unconditional desire for improvised normality in unprecedented times.
Young couples meet at the international border between Konstanz, Germany, and Kreuzlingen, Switzerland on April 18, 2020. Residents moved freely between the municipalities before the COVID-19 pandemic. At this place along a stretch on private ground, there was only one old fence. In other places, in hopes of limiting infections, officials erected first one fence and, two weeks later, a second one, with a gap of several feet in between. The goal was to prevent the physical contact that these young couples managed.
The beach of Zingst on August 06, 2020. Due to the corona pandemic, most Germans spend their summer vacations in Germany. Many overcrowded beaches at the North Sea and the Baltic Sea had to be closed. Day visitors who have not booked an overnight stay in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern risk being fined.
The Techno-Floor of the SoJungNimmermehr festival in Striegistal on September 05, 2020. The festival may take place under strict conditions with up to 200 guests. In order to prevent a larger crowd, the festival has been officially cancelled, only a newsletter informs about the event.
An ecumenical service on Good Friday is held at a drive-in cinema in Düsseldorf, Germany on April 10, 2020. Indoor church services have been prohibited throughout the country since March 16.
Waiting area, vaccination center in the city hall, Bielefeld, Germany, April 28, 2021.
The undertaker Markus Küstner before a funeral in the mourning hall of the cemetery in Dachsenhausen, Germany on April 17, 2020. Because of the high risk of infection at funerals, where mainly elderly people are present, the cemetery management of Dachsenhausen decided not to allow any mourners at funerals. For this reason Markus Küstner conducts the burials alone.
Nadine* and Andreas* pose for a portrait in their apartment in the „Bunker“ in Göttingen on September 4, 2020. When the residential complex was quarantined in June, Nadine was in the last weeks of pregnancy. Andreas took care of her in the one-room apartment of about twenty square meters. Two days after the end of the quarantine her daughter Anna* was born. Due to Nadine‘s addiction and the difficult living environment, Anna* is now growing up in a foster family. //*Name changed
Mortician Benjamin Wolf loads six coffins for transportation in Ottendorf-Okrilla on December 21, 2020. Because the crematorium in Dresden-Tollkewitz is overloaded due to the high mortality rate in Saxony, the mortician arranged for a van to transfer the deceased to a crematorium in Saxony-Anhalt. Dead bodies associated with COVID-19 are wrapped in a special body bag, and the body and coffin must be disinfected. There must be warning signs on the coffin, and the mortician seals the lid with tape for safety.
Ingmar Björn Nolting (1995) lives and works as a freelance photographer in Leipzig, Germany. He studied photography at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts and he is a founding member of the DOCKS collective. Ingmar’s long-term projects have been awarded national and international prizes such as the Getty Reportage Grant, World Report Award and a VG Bildkunst Grant. His images have been published in TIME Magazine, Washington Post, Le Monde, ZEIT Magazine, Spiegel, ZEIT, GEO and Stern, among others. Ingmar holds a scholarship of Stiftung Kunstfonds.
Photo Essay edited by Alejandra Martínez Moreno