Beijing-based photographer Giulia Marchi takes us on a visual tour of China in lockdown.
When rumors of a strange illness began circulating in Central China in late 2019, many believed the threat could be contained in Wuhan, where it was first detected. But the novel coronavirus quickly made its way from the Hubei province to the rest of the nation, with the first two cases officially recorded in the Chinese capital of Beijing on January 20, 2020.
Soon, all 20 million-plus residents of Beijing found themselves under strict lockdown as officials attempted to reign in the virus. Business, life, and travel came to an abrupt halt, and the silence that echoed through the Chinese metropolis—the ninth most populous city on the planet—was deafening.
Here, photographer Giulia Marchi takes us to Beijing toward the end of the city’s initial shutdown, capturing one of the places hit hardest by the virus and remembering what it felt like to explore the quiet streets that the pandemic left in its wake.
"Beijing was like a ghost town during the first month of the lockdown. Nothing was really clear yet and the virus was still mostly a mystery; businesses shut down and life froze." (Taken at home, May 27, 2020.)
"I kept working, and worked every day during the first month. I covered what was possible, but not having access to hospitals or houses, I had to grapple with the emptiness that the virus caused, which was surreal in a city of more than 20 million people. The new rules changed everyone’s life." (Ritan Park, May 27, 2020.)
“I walk a lot for work. I take pictures, and when you take pictures, you have to look for them, to find them, to chase them. When I am out for photos, my mind is not really connected to my body anymore but to my surroundings and to my camera. There is almost no thinking. The thoughts are not important because you have to be completely present in the moment, like a lion ready to ambush. Sometimes I hold my breath, and with my breath, I hold all my thoughts. I disappear and let myself get swallowed by the reality around me.” (Chaoyang Park, May 27, 2020.)