Looking inwards
As the global pandemic transitioned from novelty to reality, Western Kentucky University college students realized their lives would be altered forever.


MARCH, 2020

"I find myself exhausted though my quarantine days are filled with very little movement. I long for places to go and people to see; I am grieving the could-have, would-have, should-have-beens. I am grateful that I am safe and it is my responsibility to keep others safe, so I have been staying inside and learning to spend time with myself. I have found solace in the fact that the trees are turning green — they remind me that we are all still growing — I am eager to see how much stronger we are on the other side of the current pandemic."

~ Sam Mallon

When students of the School of Media at Western Kentucky University beelined from their cramped dorm rooms and fluorescent lit classrooms in Jody Richards Hall to enjoy a week respite on March 6, 2020, they were blissfully ignorant of the storm that was about to shatter their perception of what college education would become, how their world would change and what their future may become.

The COVID-19 pandemic at first felt like this bump in the road that was merely an inconvenience, but like presidents did at other schools across the country and around the globe, WKU President Timothy Caboni announced classes were to move online for the rest of the semester. College life as it normally was quickly became a distant, hazy dream. Dimly lit basements or childhood bedrooms became the new classroom as increasingly unkempt students clung to their red Solo cups that were filled with a liquid of ambiguous content (at least to the professor) as they swayed to whatever heavy bass they could feel in their mind and pretended to maintain attention in the new Zoom world. The typical sensations of the freedom of college life were instantly snatched from their grasps.

Before I go



SPRING, 2020

"This work was made when I moved home in 2020 to eastern in Kentucky at the beginning of the pandemic. In was an unexpected return to what once was familiar, I was given a chance to examine my connection to my family and our connection to the land. I will cherish the time I had to reflect on the place that made me who I am."

~ Morgan Hornsby

This physical isolation was enjoyable at first. The ability to make it to classes with just a few clicks was very appealing in comparison to the 15-minute sprints the students usually had up the hill Western Kentucky University was built on. They could spend more time watching Netflix and scrolling through social media. But as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the spring semester, the mental health of college students across the nation began to crumble.
WKU converted to a Pass, D, Fail grading system for the rest of the spring semester. Some students began to realize the bare minimum was all they had to do and lost the drive to do better. Others faced the stress of having to maintain an essential job or the opposite, facing the fact they could not get a job. The drive to do better dwindled to almost nothing for students and teachers alike. Everyone just tried to stay sane.

A time of unexpected self awareness

By morgan bass


MAY, 2020

"I used to be an extrovert, someone who would strike up conversations with strangers for fun. After half a year in social isolation, the mere thought of putting myself out there like that is suffocating. Since March of 2020, I have been on a downward spiral into a pit of panic attacks and depressive episodes. I have been trying to act like the person I was before, but there is a piece that is now missing from that person that I used to be, and I am not sure how to pretend that it isn't."

~ Morgan Bass

The isolation forced us to take a look at who we were and determine if we were truly following our passions. Spring COVID-19 restrictions and concerns made journalism fieldwork almost nonexistent, not only in classes but also in the summer internships, which only made us hungrier to get back to work in the fall of 2020. With most of our classes being a hybrid combination of online and in-person with strict social distancing standards, our learning environment was still nowhere near normal. Despite the limits imposed, students in the Introduction to Photojournalism class took to the water like ducks, adapting by turning their cameras inward to their families and local communities in socially distant settings. They took the time document the everyday moments they experienced with their family and weren't scared to share their personal life with the world.


APRIL, 2020

“The first thing I’m doing when quarantine is over is going to church,” Catherine Taylor said. Much like her husband, she has missed very few Sundays attending virtual services on the front porch of her home, but she longs to be back praying in the church building she grew up in. “I know that church isn’t just a building, but I can’t wait to be worshiping with my church family again.”

~ Family photo by Rachel Taylor

The camera as a tool

Photo students documented their lives at the beginning of the pandemic

As part of learning to be a journalist in a quarantined world, WKU photojournalism students took on one of the hardest topics for journalists to cover — themselves. Some captured their unique identity in stills, while others told their stories through short documentary films about their struggles in quarantine and how they dealt with their mental state in an isolated world.

The Best Damn Thing

by lily estella thompson


SUMMER, 2020

"Upon reflection of our relationship throughout the pandemic, Brandon and I try to make sense about what went wrong and what went right during this time of isolation. In a video, and through images I took, we were both forced to come to terms and understand ourselves what it has been like living together through one of the most historic times in our lives."

~ Lily Estella Thompson

This pandemic has caused so much harm, decimating and dividing communities.

But we persevered and found our passion to tell stories that carried us, helping to find ourselves.


by Western Kentucky University's Photojournalism Program


APRIL, 2020

"While the COIVD-19 pandemic takes over, I try to find the light in the situation no matter how impossible it seems. Continuing to find myself and blossom like I was in my first year of college has taken an unexpected turn, but I will make do. After every storm there is a rainbow, you just have to look for it."

~ Grace Bailey


Fatimah Alhamdin
Grace Bailey
Raaj Banga
Morgan Bass
Gabi Broekema
Alex Driehaus
Kennedy Gott
Morgan Hornsby
Missy Johnson
Cassady Lamb
Sam Mallon
Vonn Pillman
Rachel Taylor
Lily Estella Thompson
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