A year like none other, one full of crisis, contempt, contemplation, and compromise. Nothing short of a spectacle. 2020 saw a public health crisis sweep the world and put most of us in quarantine; a year many took to the streets in civil disobedience to show their support for racial justice and human rights, all while the chicanery and cruelty of a broken political system raged out of control, during a presidential election that tested the strength of our social fabric.

Yet through the clouds of teargas and social chaos, there was also a spirit of kindness, inclusion, adaptation, imagination, and reinvention. Our families, friends, and neighbors had to look deep inside, to simplify, modify, and explore new ways and means of connection. As we all learned how survival could be redefined in real-time, those on the frontline—our doctors and nurses, teachers and care providers, restaurant workers, the people who deliver the mail and pick up the trash and nourish those in need— put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the world could keep turning and lives could keep being saved.

A brief look back at 2020 can do much to help us move forward. As I scanned my complete camera roll at this year’s end, I searched for a new selection, the b-sides so-to-speak, moments found in the spaces of time lost between all the madness and mayhem of our collective plight. This is my visual record of a year fraught with unexpected challenges and great transformation. 

Explore J.S. Makkos’ entire series of photo essays from 2020:

Inspired by the intensity and unpredictability of the moment, I picked up my camera as a tool to record my experience through the lens, with the hope of connecting more readily to the immediate world around me, while observing and documenting others in their own quests to adapt to this brave new world. We often searched for collective, inventive, and novel ways to suddenly reshape a perplexing new reality, where the distance between us becomes greater in a moment that requires us to come closer together.

While my photos are hyperlocal, taken in and around the French Quarter of New Orleans and its surrounding environs, my hope is that this work serves as a document of changes that occurred during this infamous year, a high-definition episodic glimpse, a visual narrative of how we processed these newest directions, and alternative progressions. This is Part Four of a series, 20 more photographs from 2020 – a collection that bids farewell to an unparalleled year of sweeping social change and inspires great strides into the next.

A foreboding note graffitied on the sign of a shuttered church in the 7th Ward: “Corona Ate My Baby.”

In March, a fire in New Orleans’ 9th Ward destroyed the former Schwegmann’s Grocery, where someone scrawled a simple optimistic plea: “Please Be Brave.”

Little People’s Place in the Treme, a venue known for its colorful characters, magically illuminated during the golden hour.

Here the illuminated cobbles of Cabildo Alley one early evening, where an unusual quietude translated into timelessness.

A French Quarter denizen observes the interactions between birds of different feathers searching for morsels. During the pandemic, resources for many were found to be scarce.

An artist takes the opportunity to adorn one of the city’s ubiquitous plywood canvases with a message of strength for all: “Be Kind NOLA”.

A damaged construction crane dangles from the rooftop of the Hard Rock Hotel. The mangled cityscape stood as a tragic disaster site snarling the city’s main thoroughfare for much of 2020.

A drone operator gets a bird’s eye view of the catastrophic damage of the Hard Rock Hotel site from above Canal Street.

Police officers monitor an accident site on Rampart Street where a shredded motorhome sits like a tin can. A surreal message is tagged on the side:“This Is Not The End.”

After the first phase of the city-wide quarantine, a few musicians return to the streets to bless the neighborhood with some sweet sounds of local jazz.

A cameraman walks away from a crowd to get better coverage of the scene. Lest we forget the summer of peaceful protests that amplified a critical message of human rights and social change.

An impressive team of young men on horseback take a break from the crowds along the Mississippi River. They ride in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement.

Back in the Quarter, a chromatic series of buildings are illuminated in resplendent colors as stencil art adorns the front doors of Preservation Hall on Saint Peter Street.

A horn player takes to serenading passersby with some familiar tunes as spectators stop in awe on the day music returned to the French Quarter.

On Royal Street, one gallery owner fills his hearse with plywood used to board up a gallery storefront, bracing for a summer of civil actions and catastrophic weather during the lockdown.

Members of the Krewe of Vaporwave at their DIY Drive-In along the Industrial Canal – an experiment built out of the necessity for a semblance of summertime fun while “social distancing.”

On Royal Street, a universal message painted on the rear window of a hearse sincerely says it all: “Death To Racism.”

As the eye of Hurricane Delta swept over the city center of New Orleans, the winds died down and the sky was luminous. Here Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in the glow of Delta’s passing.

The headlights of a car illuminate a French Quarter in absolute darkness. Blackouts across the city left many residents without power for weeks after an active season of hurricanes.

The faint sounds of the delta emulate from a familiar site along the river – Here the steamboat is lit up for a subdued celebration at the year’s end.