Essential Worker by Eric Cousineau
As COVID-19 restrictions pushed many of our daily routines into remote work from home, or worse into unemployment, some workers were deemed “essential.” Among them, healthcare professionals, grocery store and postal service workers, and many other essential personnel remained out in the world while the rest of us shelter in place. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, essential workers include those whose jobs are critical to maintaining the infrastructure of the country. These essential people are still out in the world, putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus for the sake of social stability. Strangely enough, the majority of those deemed essential are also representative of low-income positions that rarely offer health benefits despite the increased risks of working in public spaces in the age of COVID-19.
Eric Cousineau, a photographer, and essential worker employed by Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe, NM, found himself among the at-risk community of workers keeping our food supply functional. CENTER approached Cousineau in March about collaborating on a photo-project documenting and honoring the essential workforce he is part of. CENTER’s Curator of Public Engagement, Matthew Contos, provided project guidance and support, working towards creating a portrait exhibition in town.
Cousineau pressed on making images of his postman, mechanic, gas station clerks, teachers, friends, and anyone he encountered who agreed to pose for a portrait. Over the last several months Cousineau built a body of work and eventually gained access to the COVID-19 unit in Saint Vincent Hospital, in Santa Fe, NM.
Next up, Cousineau will be documenting the health workers. We are honored to share his collection of essential worker portraits to recognize those who are risking exposure to keep our groceries stocked, our internet running, our packages delivered, and our health clinics open.
To all the essential workers, we see you. Thank you for what you do. We need you and we are grateful.
About Eric Cousineau:
Eric Cousineau is a commercial and contemporary photographer. He holds a degree in photography from Oakland Community College and received a BFA from the College of Santa Fe in 2003. Cousineau studied with documentary and art photographers David Scheinbaum, Steve Fitch, Nancy Sutor, and Tony O’Brien while earning his BFA. He was born in Iowa City, raised in Flushing Michigan, and currently resides in Santa Fe, NM.
The following images are from the series Essential Worker © Eric Cousineau
If you are interested in showing this project at your facility, please contact Matthew Contos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to Parker Staley and Kathi McKenna of Trader Joe’s for pitching the project and creating a flexible schedule for Eric Cousineau to manage photoshoots.
Lillian Montoya, CEO, Kathy Etre Armijo, Vice President of mission for Christus St. Vincent, Dominick Armijo, FROST-19/CDPI Nurse Manager, and Hanna Villarrubia, Manager of case management at Christus St. Vincent, thank you for your support in helping coordinate the Saint Vincent Hospital photo shoot.