Scenes from Wuhan post-lockdown

Society & Culture

A powerful combination of video, stillness, spoken word, and music brings the nature of COVID-19 lockdown in China to life.

Wuhan was the first city in the world to go under lockdown due to COVID-19, when authorities sealed its borders on January 23. It would remain under lockdown for 76 days, until April 8, when travel restrictions were finally lifted.

Shanghai-based photographer/videographer Andrew Braun traveled there soon after to scope out the situation. He found a city that remained “very tense,” as he put it — he was rejected from six restaurants on his first day. But people were back outside, on the streets, taking public transportation, seemingly ready to return to daily life. “At the same time, they’re being patient.”

Braun tried to interview some locals, but was rejected at every turn. Eventually, a local official scolded him and said he wasn’t allowed to conduct interviews. He was free to take pictures and videos though — so he did.

The video above was edited by Luke Springer using Braun’s footage. The poetry and music is from a unique collaboration in Beijing between Anthony Tao (discloser: he’s SupChina’s managing editor) and the classically trained musician Liane Halton. The track is called “In the Streets,” and is off Tao and Halton’s most recent poetry x music album Here to Stay, which was inspired by this period we’re living through.

“In the Streets” (poem text here) is set during the early days of COVID-19, right after Wuhan went into lockdown. (For example, the line “We locked them in boxes / sealed within larger boxes // built in ten days” is a reference to the pop-up hospitals of Hubei built in record speed.) The poem, like the others in Here to Stay, was adapted from Tao’s six-part poem “Coronavirus in China,” published in Rattle in February.