Isolation + On Being a Photographer in QuarantineSeptember 18, 2020
My last creative photoshoot was in July. Even then, the primary purpose of the shoot was to capture jewelry for a brand that I was working with, and my short set of creative imagery came second. It was refreshing, and reminded me why I love what I do, but also tugged acutely at my heartstrings, because I knew that it would be a long time before I could continue that kind of work on a frequent basis. While not entirely my fault, I felt pulled into a two-month hiatus; a result of not being able to work with models due to Covid, being stuck in my tiny hometown, and struggling with mental health issues and feelings of isolation in quarantine.
I think everyone has been feeling this to a significant degree–nobody was prepared for this pandemic to last so long, and to be so achingly lonely. It’s forced me to confront every detail of my life, my relationships, and to deeply scrutinize my passions. Being a creative professional, in an industry that relies on being present with other people, is devastating under these circumstances. The exciting plans that I thought I had, the trips that I wanted to schedule, the models that I was going to work with–all fell through in the slow drip of the spring and summer. Reconciling my legitimacy as a photographer with my inability to create the work I want was, and still is, quite difficult. I’ve found following other photographers on social media to be far more toxic than inspirational for me during this time. It’s brought forth a lot of professional and personal insecurity; jealousy and frustration that many others have found ways to continue their work in-person with models, guilt that I’ve retreated from my social platforms and been inactive in a time where many have “exploded” or gone viral, and distaste for my previous work. That is not to say that social media isn’t a fantastic resource for photographers, and that I don’t enjoy it from time to time–only that it has driven me to compare myself to others, probably to an unhealthy degree. I’ve found myself avoiding notifications, ignoring new posts, and keeping my account silent–in an attempt to take a step back from it all, as if removing myself from the scene entirely will rectify my feelings of illigitimacy and being “lesser”. I know this is not true, yet returning from this hiatus truly makes me nervous.
In all of this negativity, one of my closest friends Reilly texted me out of the blue to let me know she would be in town for the weekend. Reilly is one of my favorite models for the same reason that she’s one of my best friends–she is down for anything, and approaches everything with a good attitude. So when I told her I wanted to bring a new project to life, she was immediately committed. After a few outfit suggestions, a scrappy moodboard, and some concept development, we were set. We met, socially distanced, and threw together a makeshift outdoor studio. I wanted to use Reilly as a tool to express the feelings of isolation that I, and so many others, have been experiencing; manifesting this sense of alienation from who I used to be and from the rest of the world, the scary feeling of being “adrift”. Although the imagery is subtle, I was really happy with how we implemented the concept.
Looking now at the photos, I feel the same emotions that I wanted to invoke. And while perhaps painful for some time, I have faith that things will get better. If the past year has taught me anything, it is that life is unpredictable, and that we are constantly in a state of change. We all will be given opportunities to meet new people, create new things, and be together again. For now, I am trying to focus on myself and the imagery that I can create when I have the chance–it was incredibly healing to develop something original, and deeply personal, this week, and I look forward to more opportunities to do so in the future.