About the Days ahead

Ingmar Björn Nolting

2020 - 2021

About the Days ahead (2020-2021)

When COVID-19 rapidly spread around the globe in early 2020, I found myself waking up in a world that felt fragile. Countries closed their borders. People were urged to shelter at home. Public life started to shut down and within a few days, ordinary life had become unthinkable.

As a reaction, I started a road trip that took me 25.000 kilometers across Germany under strict precautions within more than one year. During this unusual journey, I photographed on the frontlines and in the backyards of the evolving crisis in order to create a personal and comprehensive document of life during this historical period.

“About the days ahead” reflects on a changing society, oscillating between collective isolation, fear, despair, and the unconditional desire for improvised normality.

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  • Couples at the closed international border between Germany and Switzerland, Constance, April 18, 2020.
    Fences were erected along the otherwise open border in hopes of limiting COVID-19 infections. First a single one, two weeks later a second one several meters apart to prevent physical contact through the border fences. Since then, Paula and Carla meet their friends at a fence where they can be close despite the separation. It ran along the border even before the closure, and a second one was not erected here.

  • Stored beds, makeshift hospital, Hanover, April 4, 2020.

  • Stage for Easter services, Düsseldorf, April 10, 2020.
    400 cars come to the ecumenical Good Friday service. The visitors thank for the blessing at the end of the service with a horn honking concert.

  • Members of the chuch brass band of my home parish, Essingen, April 19, 2020.
    For the past five weeks, the members of the "Posaunenchor Essingen" have been playing every Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. service time all over the village, since they cannot meet together due to the pandemic. They play individually or in pairs from the front gardens, balconies and fields. Beforehand, they discuss the song selection via their WhatsApp group. Andrea and Rainer Zube play five morning chorales and an encore: What a Wonderful World.

  • My aunt Melanie (center), Vlotho, April 29, 2020.
    Dentist Dörte Stübbe bought special protective helmets to protect herself and her patients from the virus. The dentist's face can be seen through the visor of the filter-ventilated helmets, thus reducing the patients' fears.

  • Members of the German Bundestag, Berlin, April 23, 2020.

  • Mortician Markus Küstner, funeral ceremony without mourners, Dachsenhausen, April 17, 2020. Due to the high risk of infection at funeral ceremonies, where mainly elderly people are present, the cemetery management decided not to allow mourners at funerals.

  • Romanian harvest workers, asparagus plantation, Staffelde, April 25, 2020.
    Despite the entry ban, the government allowed 40,000 foreign harvest workers to enter Germany in April and another 40,000 in May to meet the huge shortage of available labor. About 100,000 foreign crop workers will be needed by the end of May.

  • Stephan Weil, Minister President of Lower Saxony (third from left), press conference, makeshift hospital, Hannover, April 4, 2020.

  • Cameron Carpenter, rehearsal for the Livestream Easter Concert, Konzerthaus, Berlin, April 11, 2020.
    The empty concert hall offers the organist new opportunities to position his custom-built organ and speakers. A concert of comparable acoustic quality would not have been possible in the presence of an audience, Carpenter says.

  • Caravan Salon, Düsseldorf , September 11, 2020.
    Due to the enormous demand for vacation opportunities in their own country, the industry is booming. The motorhome show is one of the first to be allowed to return.

  • Beach Bathers, Zingst, August 06, 2020.
    Most Germans are spending their summer vacations in Germany this year, crowded beaches on the North Sea and Baltic Sea have to be closed.

  • Performance of my friend Tim, village square, Thallwitz, September 5, 2020.

  • Soldiers, supporting the COVID-19 contact tracing of the local health department, Aalen, October 27, 2020.

  • The "Bunker" under quarantine, Göttingen, June 20, 2020.
    The "Bunker" housing complex is considered a so-called deprived area. It was quarantined after COVID-19 broke out in the cramped living conditions. About 120 of the 700 residents are infected. The anger over the ordered quarantine leads to an escalation in the afternoon. Violent clashes break out between some residents and the police. Previously, another residential complex in Göttingen had made headlines as a Corona hotspot.

  • Mortician Benjamin Wolf loads coffins for transport, Ottendorf-Okrilla, December 21, 2020.
    The crematorium in Dresden-Tollkewitz overloaded due to the many deaths. The mortician organized a van to transfer the dead to a crematorium in Saxony-Anhalt.

  • Ralf (right) at work on Christmas Eve, COVID-19 intensive care unit, Leipzig University Hospital, December 25, 2020.
    There are 36 patients in the two COVID intensive care units. A single vacant bed is still available, but capacity can be expanded in a short time. The clinic already accepts critically ill patients from the Chemnitz area and the Erzgebirge region who could no longer be adequately cared for due to overburdened local hospitals.

  • Silent protest on the B96, Weigsdorf-Köblitz, August 2, 2020.
    The protests are directed, among other things, against the Corona measures, the federal government, vaccinations, the 5G network and Bill Gates.

  • Emergency care, Kindergarten Zipfelmützen e.V., Munich, January 21, 2021.

  • Rehearsal of the central memorial ceremony for the deceased in the Corona pandemic, Konzerthaus Berlin, April 17, 2021.
    With this act of state, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier would like to set an example together with representatives of the constitutional bodies and relatives of the deceased. "Let us speak about pain and suffering and anger. But let us not lose ourselves in recriminations, in looking back, but let us once again gather strength for the way forward, the way out of the pandemic, which we want to go and will go if we go it together," says Frank-Walter Steinmeier in his speech.