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.
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