First Lady Frances Wolf revealed One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views, a statewide virtual exhibition documenting Pennsylvanians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. One Lens received nearly 1,300 submissions from Pennsylvanians in 58 counties across the state. The full exhibit is available at www.pa.gov/one-lens and will remain accessible throughout the remainder of the Wolf Administration.
“I am truly overwhelmed by the response that this exhibition has received,” said First Lady Wolf. “One Lens started as an idea from a single question: how do we create community amidst physical separation? Because of how the participants embraced it, it turned into something much bigger than I could have imagined. I hope this serves as a reminder to others that they are never alone – when they struggle and when they celebrate, there is someone not too far from them doing the same thing. I hope it gives others courage to keep going as we continue to navigate this pandemic and get closer to the other side of it.”
First Lady Wolf announced the exhibit in January 2021, hoping to capture the can-do spirit of Pennsylvanians as the state continued its fight against COVID-19. Constantly seeing how people all over the world were sharing their experiences on social media, she initially chose to collect photographs as a medium to document these experiences and tell a fuller story of what Pennsylvania looked like at this time. To increase the exhibit’s accessibility, One Lens began accepting audio submissions in partnership with the Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians.
“The stories shared have been those of triumph and hardship, joy and pain, compassion and feeling overwhelmed, fear and hope,” said First Lady Wolf. “All of these aspects are singular and special to each of us, but they are also part of a fuller enterprise: the portrait of Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To introduce the exhibition, the first lady hosted a virtual event alongside Governor Tom Wolf and the five regional ambassadors that she chose to represent One Lens: Porcha Johnson (central PA), Founder and CEO of Black Girl Health; James Hamill (northeast), Director of Public Relations for the Poconos Mountains Visitors Bureau; Ceasar Westbrook (northwest), Artist and Teacher; Shannon Maldonado (southeast), Owner and Creative Director of YOWIE; and Matt Galluzzo (southwest), President and CEO of Riverlife.
Gov. Wolf congratulated the first lady and praised the One Lens initiative during the conversation.
“This fight that we’ve endured in this past year brought its own set of challenges with it, yet Pennsylvanians never gave up,” said Gov. Wolf. “One Lens captures all of this – the good, the bad, and most importantly, the hope for all that is to come. I’m so proud of what Frances and her team organized and how they found a way to connect with Pennsylvanians, giving them an opportunity to share their stories with their neighbors statewide. These first-hand accounts will mark this time in Pennsylvania’s history.”
By compiling the stories of Pennsylvanians, One Lens serves as a historical document of this time in Pennsylvania history. The exhibition will be archived by the Pennsylvania State Library.
The regional ambassadors shared their thoughts on what they saw in the submissions, as well as the overall initiative.
“One Lens has elegantly captured the COVID-19 era – the slice of life moments, the poignant, the mundane, the heart-wrenching,” Matt Galluzzo said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of something that shares the lived experience from all corners of the Commonwealth.”
“This has been an impactful experience,” Porcha Johnson said. “These pictures tell a story and we will always remember where we were and how this moment changed our lives forever.”
“We see a common thread of humanity in the images and voice recordings from across diverse backgrounds and in everyday life over this past year,” said James Hamill. “That humanity is key to helping us understand one another and emerge stronger from this crisis we’ve endured together as one Pennsylvania.” Hamill expressed his gratitude for being invited to join One Lens.
“From the beautiful to the painful, it’s been wonderful to see the shared experiences through the photos that were submitted,” said Shannon Maldonado. “I’m so grateful to those who shared a part of their year with us!”
One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views is a statewide virtual photo and storytelling exhibit organized by the First Lady’s Office in partnership with PHMC, the PA Council on the Arts, the PA Tourism Office, and the Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians. It celebrates the hard work and commitment of all Pennsylvanians as we continue our fight against COVID-19. The full exhibit can be found on the One Lens website. Today’s conversation will be available at www.pacast.com.
For updates about the exhibition, inspiration and more Pennsylvania-related content, follow One Lens on Instagram and Facebook @OneLensPA.