Winona Pandemic Portrait Project

Over forty students taking fine-art photography classes at Winona State University were given an assignment to photograph strangers in a social-distanced, safe way. This project was inspired and informed by a workshop students participated in virtually with renowned Twin Cities-based photographer Wing Young Huie. Huie is celebrated internationally for his storefront exhibitions in St. Paul and Minneapolis. One community member also participated in the project.

The goal of this project is threefold: consider our community during this historic time, create a free and safe public art experience, and think about what a photographic portrait can say about both the subject and the photographer. Some of the images present masked individuals. What is hidden about the subject’s identity when half their face is covered? How does this kind of portrait speak to this particular moment in time? Other images portray subjects unmasked, as if there was no pandemic. How might those images also speak to our current moment in 2020? Together, both unmasked and masked portraits describe differences in personal responses to the pandemic and how to conduct oneself in public spaces.

The hope is that this project portrays people from our community with respect, curiosity, and tenderness. Perhaps some student-photographers even had a brief, but meaningful socially-distanced connection with a stranger in the community at a time when connections to others seems particularly difficult and fraught.

The exhibition can be found up and down 3rd Street in downtown Winona, MN. Photographs are installed at the southeastern corner of Main and 3rd Streets, 67 East 3rd Street, 119 and 121 East 3rd Street, and on the southeastern corner of 3rd and Walnut Streets.

The exhibition runs from October 26th – December 9th.