Notes on 2020


I took the following photographs and videos in New York City throughout 2020.

Refrigerated trailers. A ghost-town. Businesses shuttered. New York’s essential workers, who make the city-run, not receiving the dignity and respect they deserve. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos accumulated billions in wealth during the worst pandemic in our lifetimes. The NYPD police presence and their over-the-top response to peaceful demonstrators.

The rupture pandemic and economic crisis opened up cracks in society’s inequalities across racial and gender lines at all levels including wealth, education, labor, employment, police brutality, healthcare, death, and other areas of rampant inequality.

I recognize that I was able to take these photos by choice. I am not an essential worker and did not have to put my or my family’s health at risk during the height of the pandemic. Also, I could join marches and demonstrations with less risk than others knowing that when the police crackdown, statistics prove I am safer than others. My intention in this work is to weaponize such privileges in solidarity with collective actions to document events and amplify voices towards a more just and equal future.

Street Carts outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan. March 1, 2020. 12:00pm. Photo: Brett Wallace. I took this photo outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 4, 2020. It was a rainy day and there was anyone in midtown Manhattan. The Met closed its door on March 13, 2020, when the Mayor declared a disaster and closed all institutions. The Met was celebrating its 150th year. Despite its 3.3 billion dollar endowment, the Met cut 20% of its staff through a combination of layoffs, furloughs, and early retirement packages. The street vendors who relied on the Met’s foot traffic were also heavily impacted by the pandemic. They had little choice but to shut down.

Refrigerated trailers set up as temporary morgues filled the parking lot outside Bellevue Hospital. April 4, 2020. 3:32 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace.

Amazoon delivery worker, Manhattan. April 4, 2020. 12:58 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. Amazon workers delivered food throughout the pandeic while Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, made $90 billion in the six months between March 13-October 18, 2020.

USPS worker, Manhattan. April 4, 2020. 1:43 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. Essential Workers Keep the City Running. USPS workers have worked through the pandemic to deliver packages. As of July 31, 2020, he USPS confirmed that 33,945 employees took leave to quarantine, 7,421 tested positive for the virus, and 80 died.

Workers on patrol at the World Trade Center, Manhattan. April 4, 2020. 2:20 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. The Oculus, part of the World Trade Center, is e to many shops as well as the PATH, the commuter rail to New Jersey is empty.

Worker-led protest at Amazon Fulfillment Center, JFK8, Staten Island, NY. May 1, 2020. Photo: Brett Wallace. Protestors, nurses, warehouse, and transit workers demand protection for Amazon warehouse workers during the pandemic. The rally was organized by Chris Smalls who was fired by Amazon in March for organizing workers to demand more safe and sanitized working conditions during the pandemic.

NYPD barricade, Manhattan. June 3, 2020. 6:20 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. I took this photo in early evening in midtown Manhattan while demonstrating in a BLM march against the murder of George Floyd by a racist police officer. As the peaceful demonstration rolled on, night fell on the city, as did the NYPD imposed 8:00pm curfew. As heavy rain came down on the city, police kettled and arrested 60 peaceful protestors in Manhattan this night. Some peaceful protestors were hit with batons.

Defund NYPD, video, 4 min., 19 sec., 2020. Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Brett Wallace. Defund NYPD is a short video covering various Black Lives Matter protests in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York in early June 2020. This work was created in solidarity with victims of police violence, the calls to defund police, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

BLM Rally in City Hall Park, Manhattan. June 9, 2020. 7:03 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. Peaceful BLM demonstrators gather at City Hall Park, Manhattan.

Medics following a BLM march, Manhattan. June 9, 2020. 7:40 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. Three street medics follow a BLM march with first aid and health supplies.

Protest sign, Union Square Park, Manhattan. June 9, 2020. 9:38 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. A photo of a protest sign in Madison Square Park at the end of a BLM march.

Unmasked NYPD Officers on the corner of Chambers and Centre St, Manhattan. July 1, 2020. 9:49 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. A group of unmasked NYPD officers congregates on the corner of Chambers and Centre St in Manhattan. They are standing across the street from One Police Plaza and the City Hall autonomous zone, where hundreds of peaceful demonstrators have occupied City Hall Park demanding the police budget be cut before the July 1 budget deadline.

Boarded up storefront, Bowery. July 9, 2020. 5:54 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace. Stores around SoHo from boutiques, banks, to mattress dealers boarded up their windows for fear of looting.

No layoffs in New York, video, 4 min., 56 sec., 2020. Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Brett Wallace.

September 3, 11:54 AM. It was a hot and sunny morning when I biked over the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square in Lower Manhattan to join the rally for jobs and vital city services on Thursday, September 3. This public assembly included labor unions such as Local 983 representing New York civil service workers, DC 37 (the largest public sector union in the city), SSEU Local 371 which covers municipal workers, elected officials, and rank and file workers. The message directed to the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio was clear: essential workers who risked their lives during the pandemic are not expendable, do not balance the budget on their backs, and stop the layoffs.

Bicyclists hold the front line at 1 Police Plaza, Manhattan. June 30, 2020. 10:05 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace.

Bicyclists hold the front line on Centre Street between the City Hall autonomous zone and 1 Police Plaza, New York City.

Guggenheim Union Rally, video, 4 min., 38 sec., 2020. Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Brett Wallace.

October 3rd, 2020. The Guggenheim Museum is in a contract fight with the museum workers who help make the museum what it is. These workers include the on-call art handlers, carpenters, painters, lighting technicians, multimedia technicians and programmers, mount makers, the full-time preparators, fabricators, and the Facilities department, including the engineers.

On Saturday morning, October 3rd, 2020, the Guggenheim’s reopening day, the museum’s union, supported by the Operating Engineers Local 30, organized and rallied for a fair 1st contract.

Mass March to Defund the NYPD, Tax the Rich & Stop the Layoffs! Video, 9 min., 11 sec, 2020. Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Brett Wallace.

This video was filmed on October 17, 2020 in Manhattan.

In June of 2020, the New York City Council passed an 11th-hour budget that slashed vitally needed social services without any real cuts to the bloated police budget, exempting the NYPD from a city-wide hiring freeze.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson threatened the jobs of 22,000 city workers to account for a budget shortfall amid crises of unemployment, economic decline, and COVID-19. All the while, the NYPD continues its regime of surveilling, harassing, and brutalizing communities of color and protesters demanding justice.

Governor Cuomo and the state legislature have so far ignored calls to raise taxes on the rich and Wall Street to fill the budget gap. All while poor and low-income people, and people with disabilities, continue to suffer the most in the pandemic and economic crisis.

In response, a coalition of labor and community and activist organizations organized this march on October 17th throughout Lower Manhattan. The march and demands for justice and abolition were galvanized by New Yorkers who have been directly impacted by police violence and municipal austerity.

NYPD bike-mounted strategic response group (SRG), Manhattan. November 1, 2:29 PM. Photo: Brett Wallace.

On Sunday, November 1st, a group of protestors led by United Against Racism and Fascism came out to stand up against the far right. The march was in response to far-right Trump supporters planning car caravans in the boroughs of NYC, in an attempt to intimidate New Yorkers two days before Election Day.
The day began with an 11:00 am rally at Madison Square Park, Manhattan. During the march, protests, and members of the media were kettled and quarantined by a large unity of the NYPD’s bike-mounted strategic response group, or SRG. I took this photo several hours in the march and a few minutes before the forceful and planned kettling and arrests.