During a time when isolation is encouraged from the 2020 pandemic, I decided to spend the past year connecting to others through my photography. The series of photographs were inspired by the disconnect so many people felt and experienced from the social distancing and shut downs the nation and world endured during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The era of mask wearing has put a faceless identity to our society – no expressions, no acknowledgment – yet through it all, there is an underlying desire to be human…to connect, play, congregate with others, travel and explore.
There is something innocent about children during a time of crisis so I decided to focus on the observation and interaction of these young individuals because they often are a symbol of hope, life and of our future.
The best example I can share with you is a warm, late spring afternoon when Alabama was still in lockdown and children were out from school. I heard a distant a familiar sound of laughter and joy as I walked my dogs. The noise came from the nearby creek. The curiousity got the best of me as I followed the sounds of splashing and laughter.. That is when I saw three young boys climbing up the hill, taking turns on their homemade rope swing.. in that moment that day, life felt normal.
“You can’t take the humanity out of humans. There is a need for connection, for play and laughter.”
What this ongoing project has taught me during a time of crisis is that you can’t take the humanity out of humans. There is a need for connection, for play and laughter.
Just as I witnessed children being carefree during these trying times, I also had a fair share of noticing the isolation and sadness in others.
Several months after the pandemic, businesses and schools were opened up. I noticed my next door neighbor waiting silently and alone for his school bus. We were probably going on a year with the pandemic by now and I noticed the toll it had taken on him. The once friendly, bubbly child stood with his head low. He seemed to lack the zest and life he once shared when I saw him. This compelled me to grab a photo of him because it made me realize, first hand, how children are being impacted and affected.
There was another incident that stood out to me during a trip over Thanksgiving to Cumberland Island. I was on the ferry ride to the remote island for a day of hiking when I noticed a young girl deep in thought. It was in that moment I felt her expression had aged her, as I found myself intrigued with her thoughts as she looked too young to be burdened.
Children growing up in 2020 seemed to have changed, matured, been asked to do things that most children have never been asked to do, such as not attending school, not being able to hang out with friends, not having sports, church, or any normal activities to attend – no movies, no mall, no parks or festivals.
Going on a full year and not having much opportunity for normal social outings can take a toll on anyone but for children, a year might as well be eternity. I found that many children found connection through their pets and animals, like this young boy who worked at a local lumberyard. Every morning the neighborhood dog would always greet him before he started a full day’s work and the boy would come to look forward to his early arrivals.
Children living in rural communities seemed to have a closer to normal life than the neighboring communities in larger cities. It’s considered an advantage to have space to play in without worry. It reminded me of when I was a child, growing up, playing outside and it was nice to see so many children taking part with what is now considered ‘old fashioned fun’.
This ongoing series has really been rewarding for me to take part in with my personal work in photography. It has helped me to become more sensitive to the ongoing struggles that many people are facing in their life and it has also helped me to see the good in the lives of others.
I never go out looking for a particular image to capture and feel that all these images were created organically and spontaneously. Henri Cartier Bresson is a huge inspiration with my work and I found myself reverting back to his teachings of ‘just live and life gives you pictures.’
I hope this series helps to preserve and document an era of the children living in the middle of a pandemic for future generations, showing the human component as it covers isolation and community.