Eye on Texas: The Essential Women of Austin

A portrait series by Sarah Wilson explores how women deemed essential workers stay safe during the pandemic.

Selena Xie is a paramedic, intensive care nurse, and the president of the Austin EMS Association. She stands in full PPE at a medic station just east of Austin, in Travis County.
Selena Xie is a paramedic, intensive care nurse, and the president of the Austin EMS Association. She stands in full PPE at a medic station just east of Austin, in Travis County. Sarah Wilson

A portrait series by Sarah Wilson explores how women deemed essential workers stay safe during the pandemic.

Selena Xie is a paramedic, intensive care nurse, and the president of the Austin EMS Association. She stands in full PPE at a medic station just east of Austin, in Travis County.
Selena Xie is a paramedic, intensive care nurse, and the president of the Austin EMS Association. She stands in full PPE at a medic station just east of Austin, in Travis County. Sarah Wilson

Through my portrait series “Essentials” I’ve been photographing the women working in essential positions in Austin during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shelter-in-place order called for citizens to self-isolate—all citizens except those doing essential work. And so I settled in at home, vigilant to uphold the safety standards for my family and our community. But I couldn’t sit back without finding some way to safely recognize the courage and sacrifice of those who couldn’t stay home because their services were necessary to the health and safety of our community.

Austin police officer Michelle Borton works on the Austin Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Street Team, a small group of police officers, behavorial health specialists, paramedics, and social workers addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness in the Austin area.
Austin police officer Michelle Borton works on the Austin Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Street Team, a small group of police officers, behavorial health specialists, paramedics, and social workers addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness in the Austin area.  Sarah Wilson

So many of these workers are women, often with children at home. Inspired by their perseverance and immense bravery, I’ve been taking portraits of these women and conducting phone interviews exploring their personal views, frontline stories, and individual perspectives on how to stay safe in our rapidly changing world.

Emma Stanley, a 14-year veteran poll worker for Travis County, says she’s willing to risk her own health to ensure that she and others have the right to vote.
Emma Stanley, a 14-year veteran poll worker for Travis County, says she’s willing to risk her own health to ensure that she and others have the right to vote.  Sarah Wilson

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