Having graduated from college four months prior to the tragic events of 9/11, I’ve been thinking a lot about the class of 2020 and how this global moment will forever shape their lives. For this week’s Generation Pandemic cover of TIME, we wanted to tell that story through the lens of one of their own. TIME’s photography department reached out to photo professors at colleges across the country, looking for a student who has been documenting these extraordinary times. We received an incredible range of impressive portfolios, but were especially struck by the work of Hannah Beier, a 23-year-old photography major at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her photographs provide an intimate look at how her friends and classmates are marking milestones and attempting to navigate their new normal.
Prior to the pandemic, Hannah had been working on a senior thesis that focused on the vulnerability of the relationships and friendships in her life. The potency of her work depended on the intimacy of in-person shoots, which she used to forge deep connections with her subjects.
When her friends scattered across the country after school closures, Hannah was forced to shift her approach. But despite her new process—all photo shoots are now conducted virtually—she decided to maintain that intimate focus. She would call her friends via FaceTime and art direct the entire shoot: from scouting locations and setting up the subject’s camera with them to checking the back of the camera and reposing her friends until she was satisfied with the shot. Hannah used this process to photograph this week’s cover of TIME, featuring fellow senior and photography major Melissa Nesta and her boyfriend, Daniel Mosley, at home in Philadelphia. Hannah, having once lived in the home where the cover image was shot, was familiar with the location. She and Melissa decided on the exact set-up and time of day to shoot the image. Her thesis is now aptly named “Time Apart.”
Even though her own future has been thrust into uncertainty, Hannah is focused on finding ways to adapt. “Going forward I will remember that there are things in life that you cannot prepare for,” she says. “It is what you take away from it, how you grow, and learn, and challenge yourself during those times that’s what matters.”