Mother and son create pandemic portraits ‘to remember the days we spent at home together in this brew of love and fear’

Back in March, when I first published work on the impact the coronavirus was having on all of us, I was pretty convinced that it would be a few posts and that would be it. We’d do the empty streets and all of that, but then life would return to some kind of normalcy once we’d flattened the curve. I couldn’t have known how wrong I would be.

Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to stride around the world and, most notably, here in the United States. And all indications point to it being with us for the foreseeable future. So, we’ll continue having to figure out for ourselves how to weather this out.

Brooklyn-based photographer Sarah Stacke has found herself, like the rest of us, in this position. And as photographers are wont to do, she turned to her camera to help figure out how to cope. But instead of just making a record of the daily slog, she decided to collaborate with her son to create a truly special series of images that they can look back on, remembering this historic time.

Here’s what Stacke told In Sight about the project:

“When schools closed and stay-at-home orders were issued because of the coronavirus outbreak, my first-grade son, Errol, experienced big changes. Our apartment in Brooklyn became a makeshift classroom and foster home to the science classroom frog. The parks were off-limits and he only talked to his friends through screens. Sharing extended daytime hours with his infant brother, Oscar, for the first time, Errol had to work out ways to bond with this new family member.

To process these changes and ease tension from home-schooling tasks, Errol and I collaborated on portraits about our pandemic experience. “I learned that you really like black-and-white pictures,” Errol reflects. We explored the idea of feeling trapped and experimented with symbols of the pandemic like masks and rainbows. Some portraits were inspired by the superhero toys Errol was playing with, others by falls on the bed in fits of boredom.

Errol says his favorite portraits are the shark eating his hand, because sharks are his “favorite animal,” and the tinfoil on his face, “because it’s shiny.” Looking at the image of himself peeking through the newspaper, he thinks of loneliness. “I look sad,” he says.

School is out for summer, and the pandemic rages on. Our schedules and interactions are no longer circumscribed by reading, writing and math exercises, but our lives remain upended and uncertain. The portraits serve as a record of this period in our family’s history — one that will always be the bookmark between before and after — for him, and us, to remember the days we spent at home together in this brew of love and fear."

Sarah Stacke is a photojournalist and author of the award-winning book “Photos Day or Night: The Archive of Hugh Mangum.” Follow her on Instagram @sarah_stacke.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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