Essential Portrait Series by Anthony Gaut

DENTON, TX - The Merrit-King family started N.E.A.D.S., an organization that delivers goods to elderly and immunocompromised Denton residents. "We originally thought it would just be a family thing, but we've continued to grow and grow. We're hopeful more people will join us."


It's a word that’s been repeated over and over and over and over again. What businesses are considered essential or non-essential, which employees are considered essential, who is essential? One of the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic is the emergence of new language, a new set of euphemisms to bring order to uncertainty.

I believe every person is essential, whether their business or profession is deemed essential or not. Our families are essential, our friends are essential, people are essential. Whether you are having to change how you do business, volunteering your time, or just getting by, we are all essential.

DENTON, TX - Cassidy Fuess, owner of the Denton Montessori school, is grateful for her students still choosing to pay tuition. "To me, they're heroes, I've stopped tuition payments but the parents are still sending it to us so I can pay my staff. It means the world to me."
DENTON, TX. Gerald Goodgame, journeyman, business owner, and University of North Texas alumus, is working as normal. "Business has actually been picking up; never been busier. People still got to go to work, you know?"
DENTON, TX. Advanced Auto Parts is giving free oil changes to healthcare workers and first respdonders. "We knew it was the right thing to do, simple as that." Auto parts and service centers are considered "essential" services under Texas code.
DENTON, TX. Jairo Rojas, owner of Salsa with Jo, has had to adapt to leading online salsa classes from an improvised and cramped studio. "It feels like we're at the beginning again, with small classes. I don't know how long it'll last, but we're ready for to last it out if we need to."
DENTON, TX. Fashion Designer, Carlos Reyes, applied his skills to making protective masks. Reyes donates one mask to health professionals for each mask sold to an individual. "With my business essentially gone for a while, I felt this was a great way to give back and also stay relevant."
DENTON, TX. Denton Fleet Farmers, started by Sean Durbin, brings urban farming to Denton. "This is a great way to introduce people to gardening and brightening Denton. Even with everything going on we decided to keep on pushing forward."
DENTON, TX. The Mutual Aid Network of Denton has come together to serve Denton during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I know that there's only so much we can do, but anything is better than nothing."


Photo Essay by Anthony Gaut