Half a Million and Counting

By Steve Bennett | February 21, 2021

On June 7, 2020, I ventured out of my house with camera in hand for the first time in weeks to document life on the street. The following photo of the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Massachusetts, with its marquee message, “stay home and be safe,” became the impetus for a series on my Instagram feed, “The Pandemic Chronicles” (and the following month, the inspiration for The Pandemic Lens.)  I added “2020” to the Instagram series title after posting a few images, “just in case.”  The official death toll on that day in the United States was 109,000, a figure that the media called a “grim milestone.”


Jun 7, 2020. The inspiration for launching The Pandemic Lens. Maybe the theater will open soon.


Today, February 21, 2021, just eight months later, the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. is projected to reach a staggering 500,000. Half a million.

I thought it would be fitting to reshoot my first pandemic photograph as a reminder that we still need to “stay home and be safe.” The theater will  hopefully open some day, but I doubt that it will be soon. And I hope there will never be a need for another February photo like this one.


Feb 21, 2021. Another grim milestone day, 500,000 dead in US. Not sure when “soon” will be.

Copyright © 2021 Steven Bennett
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  1. Steven Kushner on February 22, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    The theatre marquee is akin to a billboard for the human response to the pandemic, a public proclamation that We Will Overcome. And I love that you have documented this in different seasons. Thank you for this post, for this blog.

    • Steve Bennett on February 22, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      Steve, thank you for your insightful comment–yes the marquee is a sobering billboard for the times.

  2. Charles Levin on February 22, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    A subtly haunting image — A good reminder of how far we’ve come and endured. I love the theatre’s optimism too. We all need that.

    • Steve Bennett on February 22, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      We need all the reminders we can get in these historic times. Thanks for commenting!

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