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Santi Palacios

Seniors in Solitude


What happens when you are unable to say goodbye? What should you do when that inevitable farewell, death and subsequent funeral comes in such an inconceivable manner? Our imagined scenarios have been wiped out by COVID-19 in a single blow.

Seniors in Solitude is a photographic tour through nursing homes in Catalonia during the state of alarm declared due to the pandemic. Nursing homes have become one of the tragic focal points in the health crisis caused by the coronavirus in Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, figures top more than 32,000 deaths, according to official data. Two thirds of these deaths correspond to the elderly: more than 20,000 have died of coronavirus in nursing homes in Spain, mostly isolated and unable to say goodbye to their relatives.

This story take us into nursing homes during the months of March, April and May, when the lack of means of protection, misinformation and fear dominated almost everything. It includes the story of Marita, whose mother died in a nursing home on Easter Sunday, and her frustration at the lack of response from the health authorities, or the despair of Julia, director of a nursing home who lost twelve of her twenty-seven elderly in a month. It is the result of a monitoring of the situation in nursing homes to show what was happening there while the country was confined.

These photographs evoke the emotions that were experienced inside nursing homes during the worst weeks of the state of emergency caused by covid-19: loneliness, fear, isolation, fragility, sadness, documenting the most serious consequences of the pandemic: the death of thousands of people. And they do so respecting the privacy of that group that lived through a civil war and the post-war hardships, the Franco regime, the transition to democracy, the arrival of the new century and, now, a pandemic.

This story was carried out accompanying emergency teams from the NGO Open Arms.


Photojournalist and Editor in Chief of Sonda Internacional, a non-profit media outlet specializing in visual journalism on the climate crisis. Since the beginning of his career Santi has focused on migrations, conflicts and human ecology—these interests stemming from his training as a sociologist.

His work has been published in major magazines and newspapers worldwide, exhibited in dozens of cities, and it has received a number of national and international awards including a World Press Photo in 2017 and Spain’s National Photojournalism Award two years running. In 2016 he was part of the team nominated by the Associated Press for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography; and in 2018 he was selected by the World Press Photo 6x6 Talent Program in Europe.

Santi often contributes to the magazine Revista 5W, the NGO, Open Arms, and is a guest lecturer at the EFTI International Photography School, among others. He was a frequent contributor to the Associated Press from 2014 to 2018, and he has also freelanced occasionally with other media in the past, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, CNN and El País.