Empty Campus

A Photo Essay

When Tanya Brown asked if I would be interested in creating an empty campus photo essay I visited to get a sense of what the look and mood of the photos might be. The first thing I noticed was the almost complete depopulation of students, faculty, and university staff. The second was the stillness, the absence of vehicles and their accompanying congestion, fumes, and noise. Still present, however, was the digital voice repeatedly dictating when to walk or wait at street crossings that saw no cars for several minutes at a time.

Catastrophes or disasters that eliminate the population usually leave behind massive physical destruction and make resettlement a project of years to accomplish. This, mercifully, has not been so with COVID-19. The campus is arguably more appealing and beautiful than ever. The essence remains: lush landscaping, cross walks and walkways laid in pavers with smart designs, black streetlamps with bright LEDs, art installations, refurbished “Torchbearer” and “Europa and the Bull” statues, and of course the numerous new buildings.

It’s terribly sad that so many have been denied on-campus classes, sports, concerts, person-to-person interactions, and the proud moment of graduation ceremonies that breathe life into the empty physical constructs of the university. The human devastation has not poured over into the true character of campus, however. It will be ready to resume its intended use and welcome the population it deserves once connection is safer again.

–Charles Brooks, photographer, Haslam Magazine


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