OTTAWA -- On a cold, dreary spring day in Ottawa, award-winning photographer Michelle Valberg ventured into the Byward Market with her camera to capture the chilling stillness of the Capital’s empty streets.

“I randomly ran into a friend.  Her name is Mandy Gosewich, owner of Stunning Fashion Accessories," Valberg said. "We shared a raw and tearful conversation about our new norm. We spoke about the fear of the unknown, during and after this pandemic. Small business owners are being hit hard.  What will it be like on the other side?”

The two friends acknowledged the need to stay positive during their pandemic journey; that everyone in their community, and around the world, is in this together and must continue to have hope for the future. 

That encounter gave birth to a new social media series called Planet Hope.

“Mandy is ground zero for Planet Hope” said Valberg, the Canadian Nikon Ambassador and Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence. “Thank you for the inspiration.”

Using graphic, black and white photographs, Valberg is sharing compelling portraits of people living, and working, in the COVID-19 reality.

Several photographs have been posted to Valberg’s social media platforms. Among them, images of health care workers, a grocery store cashier, an undercover cop and young man living on the streets.

Each tells a story of service, volunteerism, giving back and survival during an unspeakably difficult time. Valberg releases a new portrait daily.

“Not sure where this will lead.  I just know I need and want to continue to tell stories with my camera during this pandemic.”

You can see Michelle Valberg’s Planet Hope series on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.