Documenting an Unprecedented Time

Students manage an unusual year with honesty and optimism.


 year has passed since many of us were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a photographer on campus, last spring I was inspired by the porch portraits that were popping up all over social media. I wanted to take that idea and create images of our UC Davis community as they coped with an unusual situation. Finding photo subjects was fairly easy as I adjusted to my own routine. Truthfully, the photo sessions became a nice reprieve from the monotony of each day. The resulting images were published on the UC Davis Magazine website. 

This project took a more narrow focus, and the student experience proved to be wide-ranging. But nearly everyone spoke about struggling with isolation, Zoom fatigue, and feelings of loss and uncertainty about the future. Despite these struggles, I was inspired by the people I photographed and their choices to remain optimistic in a time of uncertainty.

Kate Linenbach

Unitrans driver
Sophomore psychology major

Photographed on a Unitrans bus during their shift

“The only two places I go are work and home. [The job] has created structure for me. It has made doing school stuff so much easier. … Because of it I’ve had a much more successful quarter.”

TJ Ushing

Graduate student and credential candidate in the School of Education

Photographed at Birch Lane Elementary School in Davis, where he is a student teacher for a kindergarten class 

“My experience has been unlike many others. My experience has been fantastic! My mentor teachers and I have worked together from early on with the expectation of teaching virtually. We take the approach of creating a little TV show by leveraging the technology and creating fun. Despite the pandemic we have created a sense of community in our class. I was super worried coming in [to the program] with a different background [photo and video] and wasn’t sure if my skills were transferable, but the pandemic has proven my skills to be a huge asset.”

Kailyn Healy and Julliet Hill

Roommates and Cheer Team members
Healy (left) is a sophomore global disease biology and Spanish double major

Hill is a sophomore communication major

Photographed in their West Village apartment

Healy said that during the pandemic both of them have struggled with feelings of isolation. “We spend most of our time in our rooms. We try to get out of the apartment, but everyone is doing their own thing.” 

Hill added, “There’s no concept of time [during the pandemic], except for Mondays because it’s ‘The Bachelor.’”

Dawson Diaz

Junior biochemistry and molecular biology and political science double major

Photographed at his apartment in Davis

“It’s all about time management. It’s about managing time between family, friends and school. I don’t always have to be in class. I can explore more freedoms such as traveling. Not being on campus is weird because you don’t see as many people. It takes more effort to maintain relationships. [I have] a lot more time for myself and I have been able to focus on the relationships that mean the most too.”

Kyle Krueger

ASUCD president
Junior environmental sciences major

Photographed on the Quad by the Memorial Union

“I was quarantined in a basement for several weeks due to having symptomatic COVID, which was a scary and isolating experience. I think that dealing with the challenges of the pandemic has made the relationship with my family [and core group of friends] stronger. The experience of being student body president has been an extraordinary and unique experience. It has been fascinating to hear, and even take part in, decision-making around how to address a pandemic. And it has been challenging but rewarding to be in a position where I can help other students in such a time of need.”

Tyler Wong

Junior cinema and digital media major

Photographed at West Village where he lives

“During the pandemic, college life has gotten much more lonely than usual. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, I can’t see the people that I normally see on a daily basis. It takes more effort to see people, and when you do it’s almost like a godsend.”

Emma Gibb

Forward/center on women’s basketball team
Senior human development and Spanish double major

Photographed at the outdoor weight training facility near Hickey Gym

“We say, ‘Control what you can control,’ during games and practices because as a team we really believe that if we give our best effort, execute a game plan to the best of our ability, put ourselves in the best situation possible, cut out any variables we can that could affect our ability to play, then that is all you can do to produce a result you can be proud of. So much of this experience has been learning that we can’t get wrapped up and lose ourselves over things that we have no control or influence over. Life happens, and we are learning how to process, deal and move along. It’s been an extreme scenario to learn these lessons in, but at the end of the day, controlling what you can control, is the best you can do.”