One of the most silver of all of COVID-19’s linings is the fact that millions of parents are getting the chance to spend more time with their kids than ever before. This is especially important for parents of young children (like single digits young), a group that includes Cameron Karsten. The Pacific Northwest-based photographer recently chatted with us to talk about his lockdown experience, which has allowed him and his family to spend a ton of time outside.
This interview about Cameron’s personal project called “Isolation” that centered around his two young daughters has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: Tell me about your kids…what do they like to do? What have they been like during this whole thing? What have you learned about them during this time?
A: My kids are 5.5 (Olivia) and 4 (Gemma). They are full of energy from the moment they rise to the last words of a story at night. They’re the classic case of best friends yet toughest enemies. During this time of quarantine and no school, their favorite things to do are playing with their dolls, bike riding, searching for crabs on the beach, and doing arts and crafts.
A: They are wonderful at occupying themselves, as they feel this is the greatest time in their lives — Mom and Dad are home full-time, they have each other to play with, and the weather is getting nicer as summer nears. I’ve learned they are truly best friends, and like all friends they go through rough patches. But at the end of the day, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they didn’t have each other.
Q: How did this idea of photographing your kids for “Isolation” pop into your head? How much more of it will you do until you seriously start to put things together for a book?
A: This project came about right at the start of the stay-at-home orders happening in Washington State. As I witnessed all work and projects quickly cancel or be put on hold, I realized I needed to do something quick in a way to revitalize my energy in my career and develop something meaningful, personally impactful, and right at my fingertips. So, I signed up for a mentorship class with David Alan Harvey and, with a handful of select students, we review each other’s work on a monthly basis as well as one-on-one Zoom meetings with David. I think I have about another month until I can start printing the first booklets to hold, feel, and critique—something tangible, which is essential.
But as this pandemic continues into the summer months, the project will continue to showcase life in quarantine for my family in this beautiful (and fortunate) place we call home.
Q: Can you pinpoint a few of your favorite shots from this work?
A: I love watching my kids take off on their own, singing songs or making up their own stories. To mix their energy with the shadows and light of the Pacific Northwest spring season provides moments outside that are amazing (but fleeting in the girls’ ever-present speed).
My favorite moments are them in the woods near our house, contrasting the light and darkness of our personal versus global circumstance. Contrasting the human experience with the natural world is always ripe with deeply personal meaning, and to be with my kids within the outdoors and see what they take to is fascinating.
Q: How has the vision for this project changed as you’ve done it more and more?
A: Over the last six weeks from when the project began it has grown more surreal, more bizarre. I’ve also included a video element to it, which you can see below. It has evolved into darker shades with up-close in-your-face emotions about what we love, what we miss, what we’ve taken for granted our whole lives.
I’ve been looking for more contrasts in natural light, things that aren’t clearly seen but [are] on the surface. It is a dark time outside our bubble. And my emotions, my kids’, and my wife’s range day-to-day as we’re constantly surrounded by one another, trying to balance our finances, adjust our work strategies, and seek to stay in the present moment. It isn’t easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. https://player.vimeo.com/video/430514685
Q: What kinds of activities have you guys been doing to pass the time? What have been some of your favorite activities/bonding sessions?
A: Prior to the school closures, my kids were enrolled in an all-outdoor school five days a week, rain or shine. So naturally they love being outside and they utilize most of their energy discovering/exploring the natural world.
Biking has become their favorite, in part for the speed they can attain on their own. Wandering the beach at low tide, picking flowers and making art, and climbing trees and rhododendrons keep them amused for hours.
Q: Any other things about this work you’d care to share?
A: This time with my family has been a blessing in disguise. As I’ve built my career with my family at the forefront, older, more established creatives have always reiterated, ‘don’t take this time with your family for granted, because it goes by way too fast.’ I’ve had a busy start of my career with lots of travel, so to slow down and be with my family 100% is fantastic. I know I’ll never get it back.
See more of Cameron’s work at cameronkarsten.com.
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