DISTANCED: Pandemic stories of Black life in the rural South

About the Photographer

Bethany Mollenkof is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her work tells complex stories about gender, culture, identity, and representation through an engaging, vibrant, and artistic process. In addition to STAT, her photographs have been published in the New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, and other publications.

About the Project

One-fifth of the Americans living in rural areas are people of color, mostly concentrated in the South and Southwest — both areas that experienced high Covid-19 death rates.

Even before the pandemic, rural health infrastructure was strained, if not buckling, as hospitals and clinics struggled to stay open. These challenges exacerbate systemic inequities in care. As the pandemic hit, there was a devastating reality: If Black people living in rural areas get Covid-19 and can’t access the treatment they need, they are more likely to get severely ill or die from the virus, or have prolonged and difficult recoveries.

Mollenkof spent six months reporting and creating thousands of photographs to intimately document the pandemic’s profound impact on Black life in the rural South.

Photography and reporting: Bethany Mollenkof, Visiting Nieman Fellow for STAT

Director of photography: Alissa Ambrose

Text editing: Gideon Gil

Page design: Jennifer Keefe

Additional photo editing: Crystal Milner

Additional reporting: Olivia Goldhill

Copy editing: Sarah Mupo

Product manager: Alex Pavelich

Web developers: Sinuna Chaudhary, Fernanda Cox

Source: STAT