On 31 January 2020, the Italian Government declared a state of emergency after two Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Rome. The outbreak expended quickly and during the peak of the pandemic, Italy had the highest number of active cases in the world. On 9 March, Italy was the first country to announce a national lockdown, on the heels of 1,797 new confirmed cases in one day. 60 million Italians were told to ‘stay at home’ and all non-essential services were ordered to close. The once bustling streets in cities and towns across the country were left eerily quiet and deserted. 

On the frontline of the pandemic, Italian essential workers continued their jobs and kept society running. Doctors, nurses, call centre operators, sanitation workers, supermarket assistants, firefighters, paramedics and policemen were portrayed during the coronavirus outbreak in Rome. Every subject was photographed at work during a break, capturing their attitude, authenticity and strong commitment. The personal protective equipment, that all subjects wear, is the common feature that ties all portraits together. Far from hiding their identities, the equipment symbolises safety and frames the workers’ eyes, bringing into focus the intense gaze of worry, exhaustion and pride.