Pandemic Portraits: A snapshot of Denver’s colorful characters, captured in the light of these strange times
The latest from Denver photographer Tina Hagerling
Tina Hagerling has been taking photos for most of her life. Before she became a photographer for the Denver Post in 2008 she would sneak her camera into concerts around the Mile High City and snap shots of musicians playing on stage and of the people around her enjoying the show.
“I love photographing people,” she says. “Portraiture has kind of been a longstanding interest of mine.”
For good reason too: she’s really good at it. Hagerling has that knack for capturing a character, a spirit, an expression in the moment that’s hard to learn. Her photos and their subjects emote curiosity, intrigue, compassion and shock when you look through them.
During her time working for the Post she shot a lot of concerts, covering the city’s thriving live music scene for work — and for play, she’d attend things like the Gathering of the Juggalos, to add some eccentric subjects to her portraiture portfolio.
“I'm not really an ICP fan,” she says “But they're just so fun to photograph. If they're in town, I usually go.”
If you visit her personal website (which she tells me, is “woefully outdated”) you can find her album “Gathering of the Juggalos” and it’s a very fun browse.
But, what happens to a live music photographer when live music is no more? What does a photographer like Hagerling photograph when gatherings, concerts, events of all shapes and manner have been cancelled, killed by COVID-19?
Well, that’s exactly what Hagerling found herself asking after the world took that quick left back in March. Not only were there no events to photograph, but with the need for social distance and “Safe at Home” orders in place, she couldn’t get as close as she normally does, to take the kinds of intimate expressive photos she’s used to taking.
“Everything kind of disappeared,” says Hagerling. “Pretty much all my activities dried up in a matter of a week or two.”
So, she had to adapt. She started thinking, brainstorming how she could capture this strange moment in time, given all its challenges. And that’s when she came up with the idea for “Pandemic Portraits,” her latest photography project, and an exposé of some of Denver’s most colorful characters, in their element, among their loved ones, from a distance, during COVID-19. .
On the project webpage Hagerling writes, “These are strange days. Even as restrictions loosen, many people remain close to home. Where they continue to cope, rejuvenate and express themselves in a variety of ways. It is in these spaces I’ve documented this surreal moment in time through a series of “distant” portraits.”