A 86-year-old resident at a Belgian nursing home hugs the director of the residence, through a wall made with plastic sheets to protect against COVID-19 infection.
The desire to be close to each other during the pandemic is strong.
Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

Visualization of the Covid-19 pandemic through images and memes


Early in the pandemic many of us were fascinated by images from the media all over the world, where empty streets and squares were portrayed, areas that are usually teeming with people. Christina Tente, a new doctoral student in art and visual studies, will now, among other things, through images, photographs and memes, investigate what happened to our visual culture when societies began to shut down as a result of the pandemic.

Christina Tente
Christina Tente

“My interest in this topic began as soon as the first lockdown in Wuhan was announced, as I was fascinated by the imagery from the area under lockdown. The big empty highways, the people in the balconies, this whole post-apocalyptic scenery characterised by an absence of humans and a suspended sense of miasma”, says Christina Tente.

Early in the pandemic, Christina started journaling and writing down preliminary observations, noticing how the visual tropes would evolve, as the virus would progress and regress in waves of intensity. During her doctoral studies, Christina Tente will investigate the visual culture as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic through photographs and photography-based memes.

“I started collecting and archiving photographs that were published online and in magazines. As soon as the virus reached Europe, the memes started. I found this whole situation – albeit terrifying – extremely interesting; on one hand, photographs that visualised in one way or another an invisible threat, and on the other hand the most creative, cynical, sarcastic and self-loathing memes as a pharmakon against the madness”, Christina says.

A municipal worker disinfects a mosque to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus ahead of Friday prayers
A municipal worker disinfects a mosque to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus ahead of Friday prayers.
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Christina wants to create an understanding of how the first year of the pandemic has been visualized and experienced throughout Europe through the images. Eager to analyse the aesthetics and the patterns, as well as trace the differences in the visual language of the photographs, she wants to compare countries with strict lockdowns (like Greece and the UK) to countries with restrictions and not very harsh measures (such as Sweden and Finland).

Fact and bio

Christina Tente was born in 1992 in Greece. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Media from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2015) and a Master's in Film and Cultural Studies from the University of Athens (2017). She also has a master's degree in visual culture from Lund University (2020).

The position is a collaboration between the Department of Cultural Sciences at the University of Gothenburg and the Hasselblad Foundation, and the planned start of the doctoral period is in September 2021. Supervisor at the Department of Cultural Sciences is Karin Wagner, and Louise Wolthers at the Hasselblad Foundation is a co-supervisor.