Just a few months ago, I was traveling nationally for photography jobs, waving to a neighbor as I rushed to catch an early-morning flight. In early March, when Berkeley’s shelter-in-place order was executed, as companies stopped working at offices and large conferences were cancelled, I watched 25 years of my photography business vanish in two weeks.
I started to feel like the wheelchair-bound photographer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window — staring out the window, waiting for a neighbor to appear.
I began to focus — my attention and my lens — on the people and lives just outside of my front door on Ward Street in South Berkeley. Without leaving my property, I began telling the stories of some of my neighbors.
Getting to know the neighbors is making our community stronger. Many have been in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, and — I hate to call them elderly because they are so vivacious — many are over 65 years’ old. Starting up these conversations, saying hello is an easy way to check in. I make sure they have enough food, masks and are doing OK.
Social distancing is making us stand apart physically, wearing masks hides our smiles, but through these interviews, we have gotten to know each other on a deeper level. I have to say I’m lucky to have such diverse and interesting neighbors. — Marla Aufmuth
Barbara: “I am alone for the first time in my entire life”
Barbara, and her dog Reno, is a neighbor to the east. She moved to Ward Street in April 1975 and is originally from Massachusetts.
Doe Dearr: “There is a part of me that’s just crushed”
Doe Dearr, and her cat Jack, is a neighbor to the Northeast. She moved to Ward Street in 2018 and is originally from Florida.
Patrick: “I’m a huggy kind of person…I really miss that”
Patrick lives two houses down to the west. He moved to Ward Street in June 1979.
Suzie: “I’m just glad my parents aren’t living. They were babies during the Spanish influenza”
Suzie is a neighbor across the street to the northwest. She moved to Ward Street in 1955.
Paul: “Psychologically, the pandemic has brought us much closer”
Paul lives behind Barbara. He moved to Ward Street 22 years ago and is originally from Hawaii.