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Photo essay: Metamorphosis

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2021 Issue 167


The Autumn 2019 issue of this magazine, which examined the relationship between diversity and better outcomes, necessitated an effort to visualize diversity across Yale School of Medicine’s research capabilities, curriculum, student body, faculty, and staff.

Photographer Robert A. Lisak visited and captured images of many familiar spaces around the medical campus. Long camera exposures cause moving figures to blur and nearly detach from the very traits that usually enable us to identify and categorize people, allowing viewers to focus more on the work that happens across Yale School of Medicine (YSM). As those photos were being taken at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year, we were blissfully unaware that our lives—and the visual landscape of New Haven—would be changed forever within six months.

In the first weeks-to-months after the onset of the pandemic lockdown, Yale employees working from home requested permission, monitored their temperature, and made the necessary arrangements to visit campus. Charging cords, monitors, kids’ artwork and family photos—left behind for what was assumed to be no longer than the length of a typical vacation—precipitated the visits, but the common element everyone noticed was how empty the med school campus—and New Haven as a whole—felt.

The black and white photos here are a selection of images from the original 2019 photoshoot—done in part to show activity and community in spaces around YSM—as a marker of ‘before.’ Over the last 18 months Lisak visited campus three more times to document the impact of COVID-19. Contrasted here with the black and white images and used throughout the feature stories, we share a selection from those shoots in full color.