Pictures of Social Isolation

A new research project investigates how Jefferson students experience the stay-at-home-order and social isolation during COVID-19 via photography.

What does life look like for everyone else in quarantine? Is it the same? What are others doing for comfort and to cope with such high levels of uncertainty?

“This is a unique time in history,” says Rosie Frasso, PhD, Program Director of Public Health at the Jefferson College of Population Health. She recently launched a research project to look at how students are changing their lives and their habits in the time of COVID-19, with the help of photography. Those who participate in the project are asked to take of photos for about a week. They’re asked to capture images that will help them explain how the pandemic has impacted their lives, studies or routines.

Photo elicitation, as the approach is called, does three things, says Dr. Frasso. “It primes the participant to take pictures and through that act, to think about their reactions to the stay-at-home order and social distancing. Then when we interview the participant, the pictures start the conversation. They allow us to quickly build rapport and trust, and let us to probe the meaning behind those images. Sometimes it’s easier to explain a feeling against the backdrop of something tangible, like a photograph.”

coronavirus self-isolation Doran homeschooling
Cierrah Doran shares a study table with her seven-year-old sister, who she helps homeschool while her school is closed and their mom takes extra shifts as a nurse. “I have to keep the table neat. It’s one thing I know I can control, and it helps us stay focused.” Photo by Cierrah Doran.

“Our students have never been through something like this, we want to learn from it so we can support them going forward,” says Dr. Frasso.  With the realization that some of these interviews could elicit difficult feelings as some undoubtedly are struggling with loss, depression and anxiety, the researchers have partnered with Stephen DiDonato, PhD, the program director for Community and Trauma Counseling at Jefferson. “We have plans in place to offer support if it becomes clear that more help is needed,” says Dr. Frasso.

Julianne LaRosa, watching a favorite TV show, “Better Things” to relieve stress at the end of the day. “I found I only wanted to watch lighthearted shows,” she says. Photo by Julianne LaRosa.

The two students leading the project with Dr. Frasso have both tested the process by taking photos of their own lives and interviewing each other. “I ended up learning more about myself in quarantine. It made me see how much my routine has changed,” says masters-of-public-health (MPH) student Julianne LaRosa, who together with Cierrah Doran and several other MPH students, will conduct the interviews with participants. “We encourage other students to participate. It felt very rewarding to explore our new lives in this way,” says Doran.

Any Jefferson student interested in participating or learning more, can contact or for info.

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Science and Technology