UW News

May 15, 2020

Staff feature: What it’s like to photograph the stories of a quiet university campus and bustling medical center amid a pandemic

UW News

While the majority of University of Washington staff members are tucked away in makeshift home offices, working from dining room tables or trying to find the perfect virtual background to cover up the mess left behind by children, some jobs still need to be done in person.

These jobs clearly include the university’s extraordinary medical, facilities, custodial and housing staffs. But another role that’s often not seen is the work of our campus photographers. They continue to capture the visual stories and people on campus in a time when many of us aren’t there to see them ourselves.

UW News asked one of our campus photographers, Dennis Wise, to share some of his favorite photos he’s taken this spring, and to describe what it’s like working on campus now.

Editor’s note: Communications and media professionals are included among essential workers in the Governor’s “Stay at Home, Stay Healthy” order, and this work has continued at the UW in a thoughtful way – following public health guidelines and recommendations – in an effort to document the university’s response to this unprecedented and historic event.

“It has been two very different campuses these past few months,” Wise said. “From one perspective, it is an incredibly busy and exciting campus from the work in the UW Medicine facilities and the student volunteers in every place I’ve visited, to employees sewing masks and the 60-plus volunteers at the UW Virology Lab doing COVID-19 testing.”

But, he said, there’s another side to campus as well.

“From another perspective, it is quiet and empty. Red Square is deserted and no one is walking through the Quad — even the buses are empty,” he said.

Overall, Wise said he has been inspired by the people he’s been able to photograph over the last several months.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the faculty, student and staff members’ passion, caring and devotion to the UW’s mission to be the best university in the world as measured by impact,” he said.

The work of the UW’s campus photographers also captures how quickly life has evolved during this pandemic — from the early guidance of emphasizing hand washing and using disinfectant, to maintaining appropriate distancing and, most recently, wearing masks in public.

Here are some of Wise’s favorite photos from this spring — which highlight both the beauty of campus and the work of the university’s staff, faculty and students.


person mops floor in a dimly lit building

Custodian Pheng Keopraseurt cleans the floor of an empty Miller Hall on March 11, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

man on stage in empty auditorium

Ian Schnee, a senior lecturer of philosophy, records his live lecture March 13, 2020 in an empty auditorium for his online class.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Fountain with light streaming in through the water

Drumheller Fountain with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building in the background on March 17, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

man using a pipette in a lab

Rohit Shankar, a medical scientist in the UW School of Medicine, working in the lab on March 19, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

woman stands in front of Emergency entrance at hospital

Dr. Anne Chipman outside the UW Medicine Emergency Department on March 30, 2020, the day Grammy-winning artist Lizzo donated lunch for the UW Medical Center employees.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

petals falling off cherry blossom trees

Petals falling off the Quad’s cherry trees on April 3, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

man standing a room with 3D printers near the wall

Graduate student Nick Duran works in a UW makerspace on April 6, 2020, using 3D printers to create personal protective equipment for medical workers.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Crow looks down from the top of a wall

A campus crow stares down the camera on April 28, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

man in scrubs disinfects visors that affix to face shields

Jason Speich, a research scientist in the UW School of Medicine, disinfects 3D-printed parts for personal protective equipment on April 8, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

man using sewing machine with pile of cloth masks in foreground

On April 14, 2020, Wilai Khammanivong, a Housing & Food Services employee, sews masks that were given to UW custodial, dining and food service staff.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

woman inspects a white piece of plastic shaped like a mask with a hole in the center

Soumya Jindal, a graduate student in Human Centered Design & Engineering, inspects a prototype mask on April 15, 2020.Dennis Wise/University of Washington