It is through beautiful and tough moments that we celebrate life. Over the past year, George Pimentel, a local boy who also happens to be a renowned celebrity photographer, did just that.
When COVID-19 hit Toronto, it was clear that a crucial chapter was going to play out in his life and that his love of photojournalism would soon became more important than ever. To George, documenting this catastrophic event was imperative, so camera in hand, he took to the streets of Toronto where he witnessed scores of sad and heartfelt moments. His goal was to take a digital snapshot of each situation, freezing these moments in time—what it was like to go to the supermarket; to visit the sick in hospital; to see someone suffering in a nursing home; and the diligence and devotion of the front line workers. In other words, portraits of real people surviving chaos.
This is how the COVID-19 photo essay started. His black and white photography, which can be viewed on Instagram @georgepimentel1 includes his first COVID fashion show, empty churches, some unreal conditions and adaptation to this weird situation.
Quickly the idea snowballed and the Canada COVID Portrait was founded. An initiative with a mission to document how the pandemic is impacting the lives of Canadians through a visual archive of images that portray this transformative moment in history. The project, which as George puts it, “is open to anybody with a cell phone who wants to convey what they’re going through in COVID times,” received over 5,000 submissions nationwide.
George and his team curated a selection of images capturing change, showing solidarity and hope. Large-scale black and white prints of this collection were exhibited outdoors at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre capturing the attention of dignitaries and the public. “It was so great to have the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario come to visit our outdoor exhibition at the Harbourfront Centre, it’s a beautiful and touching way to share our stories” George wrote on his Instagram page.
In the eyes of George Pimentel, we are all celebrities that are making a difference in this moment in history.