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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Nine Women

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

For the past number of months I have been working on a project called Nine Women. The project started with nine women, each representing a different decade of life. A few months ago one of the women pulled out, so we are eight women. Each of us has been documenting our lives over the past few months. We have taken photographs of the small events that make up our lives, created reflective pieces about what we are doing and met together on Zoom to share the changes we each are experiencing.

Who are our participants?

Sophie just turned 17 and lives in Massachusetts

Arielle is 28 and lives in Washington, DC

Elisheva is 30 and lives in New York City

Sarah Marie is 42 and lives in Massachusetts

Marla is 52 and lives in Massachusetts

Leann is 64 and lives in Massachusetts

Nancy is 75 and lives in San Fransisco

Bernice is 93 and lives in Massachusetts

Each of us is documenting our life in a different way. Our lives vary due to many factors.

Some of us are working and others are not. Some of us have children living at home, others live with a spouse or partner, and some of us live alone. Our pandemic activities vary. Some of us have lots of time to pursue interests and others search for occasional moments to grab on our own. All of us, however, have asked ourselves the important question,

"What and whom do we consider important during this period?" All of us have considered the priorities in our lives as we progress through this period of disease and relative isolation.

For the past year we have been cursed with a pandemic, but we have also had a controversial president and election and a vast array of other national troubles.

As participants chose what they wished to focus on, their choices were personal and heartfelt. There was no subject matter too small or too large to photograph and reflect on because this is a project about individuals and what matters to them. There are those of us during this pandemic who lead very busy lives with huge responsibility and those who live more insulated lives. There are those who shoulder enormous professional and family burdens and some who suffer from loneliness and not enough to do. Everyone, however, is changed and everyone is affected.

The photos you will see on this page are not earth shattering, but they are a view into the lives of eight women who have seen their lives change drastically over the past year.

Despite a pandemic, these women are great examples of how life goes on, how we make adjustments to our lives when circumstances demand it and how we creatively and patiently tackle problems. They reveal the ability of people to be able to refocus their lives and make it the best possible. It is a time for people to use what they have to make their lives good, even now. The photographs below are studies in resilience and snapshots of 8 women going about their lives in 2020 and the dawn of 2021. Perhaps they are photographs of each of us.

Each of the 8 women has a particular focus to photos and reflections. Some of the photos look outward toward helping communities and some gaze inward, toward building relationships, and paying attention to the things in their lives that bring them comfort.

What follows is just one photo for each subject taken over the past months. Along with that photo will be a short description of the subject and a short description of her photo.

Our very special group continues to meet and I will continue to collect their stories during this time.

In all times, good and bad, difficult and easy, life continues.

Sophie is a junior in high school and attending classes on Zoom. Last month she danced masked in The Nutcracker and she is excited about perhaps getting her license soon.

Arielle is working as an immigration lawyer in Washington DC and a witness to the unrest over the past months. During Covid she has worked at home and had a view of the city from her balcony. Arielle witnessed the tumultuous fall in Washington, DC. Many of her photos focus on the graffiti she sees around the city, the actions and reactions of politics in our capitol.

Elisheva works as a special needs teacher in New York City. Her boyfriend owns a pet shelter and the focus of some of Elisheva's photos is becoming accustomed to getting to know dogs. Another focus of her photos are the special meals that she and her boyfriend make during their down time on weekends.

Sarah Marie is a classroom teacher in suburban Boston who teaches her elementary school class everyday from a closet in her home. She has a husband and three children who are learning from home and a widowed mother living downstairs. Sarah Marie is busy all the time and her photos attempt to focus in on spending her limited down time with her children.

This photo how a bed has become a kindergarten classroom for Sarah Marie's daughter.

Marla is a Jewish educator from suburban Boston who has three children, with one still living at home. She has chosen to photograph her work in food saving in the Boston area and her work on the presidential elections.

Leann is at home much of the time and just completed saying the kaddish for her late mother. In her photos she examines the Zoom room where she says the kaddish prayer as a welcoming virtual space for community and connection.

Nancy lives in San Fransisco. She works to feed others in a community kitchen, just finished a master's degree and is beginning a doctoral program. She photographs baking challah, early morning travels to pick up food at the San Fransisco piers and reflects on fixing a long time leak in her home.

Bernice lives in Greater Boston at a senior living facility where there are multiple social restrictions to keep residents safe. Bernice, an inspiration us, continues to be busy, productive and positive during this time. This is a photo of her receiving her initial Covid-19 immunization.

A reflection from Bernice:

With a great deal of anticipation I was among the many excited residents of XX to receive my first COVID injection!

It w as a marvel of organization from our staff and the Walgreen technicians who injected our arms with the vaccine!

A couple hundred residents and staff (all masked maintaining social distances from each other) were invited in groups for re-registering our paperwork and then directed to tables in the ballroom where I received my”shot”along with many others all in a sense of anticipation while photographers were recording our bravery (no, I didn’t cry because I didn’t even feel the needle!)

From our injection site I was invited to sit in another area to wait out any symptoms.None at all, while I was periodically queried as to how I felt!

This was another bit of excitement for me, seeing so many other faces I hadn’t seen since the beginning of March! We have been so well protected in our “bubbles” where I, together with 3 other neighbors play bridge.And this was a step forward from the beginning of the pandemic when we were confined to our apartments, our trash was picked up outside our doors, our mail delivered to us in a plastic box outside our doors.

The first break came when we had the privilege of taking out our own trash, going to the mailrooms,and walking around the property outdoors!Amazing how every little privilege made a difference! All the while (and now) since our dining rooms are closed, we post our meal choices on a pad of paper on our doors and dinners and lunches are delivered.(Meal choices are shown on our in house tv screens ( or apps on our I pads, computers and phone s). Programs and notices are also displayed—much planning to put everything in place to keep us safe!

And now more freedoms, and the light at the end of the tunnel with a promise of our 2nd vaccine shot to come Feb.4th!

That's why I have that smile on my face!🥰


I'll be posting again with updates from our Eight Women and more photos.

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