• Mark White

Covid & Buskers: My Early Covid Walkabouts

In mid March, as businesses began to abandon downtown, and as the streets started to empty, I began my Covid walkabouts. I wanted to document the effects the state's Shelter at Home and Social Distancing would have on the hundreds of men and women in Seattle who rely on the streets for their food, shelter and livelihoods.

The first things I noticed in my walkabouts were the effect Covid was having on the street culture, particularly its buskers.

Johnny Hahn is one of Seattle's elder buskers. He's been carting his piano to this street corner at the Pike Market since at least 1993 when I first heard him. Back then I would celebrate my Friday paydays by indulging in a Three Girls Bakery pastry on the grass of the Market's Victor Steinbrueck Park. So he's been around since at least that long.

Given the fact that the Pike Market gets 10 million visitors a year, and Johnny's been playing this street corner in the Market for at least 25 years, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he's played in front of more live fans than Elton John!

The picture above was taken in mid-March, on a day that the Market would normally be shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. Johnny played the Market as normal, regardless of the crowd, until the Shelter at Home orders came down in early April. He may still show up, I don't know. I walk through the Market a couple times a week but have not seen him since that shot.

Around that same time, James Nason played to empty stalls where dozens of crafts people, flower sellers and fish mongers normally sell their wares to the locals and tourists.

Not sure why this passerby is blocking his ears in this pre-Covid capture of busker Chubby Washington at Fourth & Pike. My guess is that he'd give anything right now to be able to hear Chubby in the streets again, banging on his drums.

© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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