Skip to Main Content
Contribute Try STAT+ Today

DISTANCED

Photographer Bethany Mollenkof spent six months documenting the impact of Covid-19 on residents of rural Black communities in the South. While the pandemic has exacerbated existing medical and financial inequities in these remote corners of the region, it has also highlighted communities’ strength in the face of unprecedented challenges.

On this page, you will find photos and videos from the places she visited. Click on the links to see the stories behind them. Learn more about this project.

Dawson, Ga.
For years, Latasha Taylor resisted her mother’s requests to join her in the yard at sunrise. Ever since her mother passed away from Covid, she waters her mom’s plants out of duty.
Read The Story
Cuthbert, Ga.
Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center closed in the middle of the pandemic.Read The Story
Pahokee, Fla.
Community health workers at a Covid-19 vaccination event hand out hand sanitizer and masks in the parking lot of Anquan Boldin Stadium.Read The Story
Gainesville, Ala.
Physician Marlo Paul provides house calls, medicinal plants, and emotional support to people in her rural Alabama community who don’t have access to traditional health care.
Read The Story
Pahokee, Fla.
Quamane Williams (right) goes rabbit hunting in the sugarcane fields to bring in extra money for his family.Read The Story
Belle Glade, Fla.
Just 43 miles from the wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, The Glades is known for its rich soil and bountiful sugarcane crop, but the predominantly brown and Black day laborers who live here are often overlooked and were hit hard by Covid-19. Read The Story
Pahokee, Fla.
Tammy Jackson-Moore helped start a nonprofit that coordinates food distribution and coronavirus testing for her community.Read The Story
Pahokee, Fla.
Nurse Latangela Williams directs a line of cars at a Covid-19 vaccination event.Read The Story
Belle Glade, Fla.
Friends of Daisy Pace, who died of Covid-19, attend her funeral.Read The Story
The Glades, Fla.
The communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay form a major part of Florida’s agricultural heartland.
Pahokee, Fla.
People waited in their cars for a drive-thru vaccination event at Anquan Boldin Stadium.Read The Story
Gainesville, Al.
Shelanda Hare, 42, recovered from Covid-19. Her sons Lamarcus Johnson, 7, and Ladrrion Burrell, 17, did not contract the disease, despite living in the same home. Read The Story
Chattanooga, Tenn.
“More women are not interested in hospital births. More Black women are becoming aware of their choices,” said doula and herbalist Lexi Romanini, who has seen an increase in clients during the pandemic.
Dawson, Ga.
Robert Albritten, owner of Albritten’s Funeral Service, said the hospital in Cuthbert drew Black patients from as far as 30 miles away.Read The Story

About the Photographer

Bethany Mollenkof is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her work tells complex stories about gender, culture, identity, and representation through an engaging, vibrant, and artistic process. In addition to STAT, her photographs have been published in the New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, and other publications.

About the Project

One-fifth of the Americans living in rural areas are people of color, mostly concentrated in the South and Southwest — both areas that experienced high Covid-19 death rates.

Even before the pandemic, rural health infrastructure was strained, if not buckling, as hospitals and clinics struggled to stay open. These challenges exacerbate systemic inequities in care. As the pandemic hit, there was a devastating reality: If Black people living in rural areas get Covid-19 and can’t access the treatment they need, they are more likely to get severely ill or die from the virus, or have prolonged and difficult recoveries.

Mollenkof spent six months reporting and creating thousands of photographs to intimately document the pandemic’s profound impact on Black life in the rural South.

Photography and reporting: Bethany Mollenkof, Visiting Nieman Fellow for STAT

Director of photography: Alissa Ambrose

Text editing: Gideon Gil

Page design: Jennifer Keefe

Additional photo editing: Crystal Milner

Additional reporting: Olivia Goldhill

Copy editing: Sarah Mupo

Product manager: Alex Pavelich

Web developers: Sinuna Chaudhary, Fernanda Cox