Capturing the heartbreak of Covid-19 with a camera


In the forefront: Army personnel on guard duty during the MCO.

PETALING JAYA: While they are mostly hidden behind the camera lens, press photographers have the most stories to tell, especially during the Covid-19 global health crisis which started in 2020.

Four years on, the photographers who were out almost daily during the MCO are sharing their experience covering the situation on the ground.

Photojournalist Muhammad Safwan Mohd Zaidon, 29, remembers vividly the day he captured the burial of a Covid-19 victim in Klang at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

“I have covered burial processes before, but this one was the most impactful to me because the family could not say their prayers and goodbyes properly,” he said.

“The family members were crying and watching from a distance, not even on the cemetery grounds, because of the distancing order throughout the funeral service,” he said.

Being a photojournalist is not without its challenges, said Muhammad Safwan, as members of the press were initially left out of the vaccination programme even though the profession was listed under “frontliners”.

“We were not seen as people during these high-risk situations. The vaccination programme was only rolled out to the media after our situation was raised by the press associations,” said Muhammad Safwan, adding that he also learnt the importance of mental health for media practitioners during that period.

Another photojournalist, Moganraj Villavan, 33, took the opportunity to cover as much as possible of the nation’s situation after the MCO was implemented on March 18, 2020.

“I was living alone in Kuala Lumpur then, so I took up the challenge to share visuals of the situation with the public as much as I could,” he said.

Moganraj, who has been a photojournalist for 15 years, took his motorcycle and rode through all the roadblocks from Klang Valley to Kampar, Perak, to document his hometown during the MCO.

“It was an opportunity to get more human interest photographs. Before the pandemic, the people and even us were tired and depressed over the political situation.

“So it was kind of a ‘break’ from the usual coverage I had been doing. It was an experience beyond words to document a health crisis from a local point of view when across the globe, people were facing the same situation,” he said.

Photojournalist Aziah Azmee, 37, learnt to use the MySejahtera app to track which areas to go to for her next assignment.

“It sounds like running into the fire. But sometimes you have to go where the story is, but with precautions.

“As a mother, I have my children to think of, so my photos mostly captured the situation of a neighbourhood affected by the enhanced movement control order and roadblocks set up by the police,” she said.

Aziah said her most unforgettable moment during the pandemic was a visit to the Covid-19 Assessment Centre in the Klang Valley.

“It was at its peak and the medical frontliners wearing full personal protective equipment were working non-stop to screen the patients.

“People were queuing up before they were sent to the hospital in Serdang. It was like watching a movie because it felt so surreal seeing it happening in front of my lens,” she said.

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Covid-19 , Photographers

   

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