I sensed a photographic opportunity of historic importance that I shouldn’t pass up. I was guessing, hoping actually in a twisted kind of way, that I would never get to see and experience the streets of Denver so empty and deserted. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was Easter morning, all the churches having been shut down by the Mayor and Governor. And it was snowing. It was a trifecta of sorts.
Leaving the house at 7 a.m. with a PB&J and a mug of coffee in hand, I set out for Speer and Colfax. With minimal traffic, I was anticipating that I could set up my tripod in the middle of that intersection. I was right. “Spooky” and “eerie” were the words that kept tumbling through my mind.
From there I proceeded to the steps of the Capitol to shoot Civic Center Park and the City and County Building across Lincoln and Broadway. The only signs of life that I encountered were two homeless men sheltering from the snow and cold against the northeast corner of the building and a beautiful German Shepherd wandering untethered, confused, and forlorn around the Capitol grounds.
My next destination was 17th and Broadway, with the triangular corner of the Brown Palace Hotel defining the setting. There might be a busier intersection in Denver, but I knew that standing alone in the middle of that crossroad with my camera would be a singular moment. However, the thrill of having that space to myself was quickly supplanted by a sense of despair for what we all were going through.
From there, I worked my way down to Larimer Square – the city block that has been emblematic of LoDo’s revival since the late 1970’s. Despite being festooned with flags and banners, the scene was totally abandoned. As I walked along the street, I was stuck by the number of businesses that had “closed” signs taped to their doors — a grim reminder of the terrible economic toll that the virus was taking.
I meandered out to Speer and back toward the performing arts complex. I wasn’t intending to go into the complex itself, since my focus was the abandoned streets, but I couldn’t resist the chance to be the only person under that iconic 80’ high glass archway.
From the recesses of my mind, I had a flashback to a Harry Belafonte concert there in the late ‘70’s. As the concertgoers spilled out of Boettcher Concert Hall, someone boomed out “Day-O,” which echoed throughout the crowded space as if no one was there.
On this Easter morning, no one was.
Todd Bacon is a professional photographer living in Denver.
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