5 Bham photographers using creativity during isolation to stay connected

I can’t wait to spend my weekends back with the girls at Queen’s Park, but for now those curbside cocktails work just fine. Photo via Mary Fehr’s Facebook.

Where there’s a will, there’s a creative way. That’s how these Birmingham photographers look at life, as they navigate COVID-19 precautions while still trying to continue their livelihood and passion.

Meet the founder of Birmingham Quarantine ARTifacts Facebook group

A self-described do-er, Jennifer Alsabrook-Turner wanted to find some way to help when our world, and local community, were swept with the COVID-19 pandemic. She needed a creative outlet, she was frustrated and like many creatives during this time, she was limited.

The Facebook group is much more than just a place for discussion. It offers resources and connects all of us together who are living in the same weird headspace.

Jennifer believes everyone has creative potential, so the group isn’t limited to one medium of art, or even what someone might consider art at all. Members share photos of pies they’ve baked, their freshly tilled gardens and more.

“I think Quarantine ARTifacts has been a safe place for everyone. It’s been a very supportive and positive environment. We’ve presented each other with creative challenges, which have been faced individually.”

Jennifer Alsabrook-Turner

One of those challenges is a nightly question posed by Jennifer to create a moment of self-reflection and conversation. Mary Fehr, a full-time commercial and wedding photographer based out of Birmingham, pushes artists toward a different challenge when she hosts live figure drawing classes.

“These things have given me a renewed sense of why I became an artist in the first place. I challenge all artists to try something new. If you’re currently practicing, a new artist, or haven’t picked up a brush in ten years, just try.

Let yourself make mistakes and experiment with new technologies and techniques. Be bold, stay creative. Remind yourself of your love for art.”

Mary Fehr

The Exquisite Corpse Project

Here’s an idea of what the finished project might look like. These are three of the “Exquisite Corpses” in Guardino Gallery’s upcoming show featuring works by Dave Benz, Nanette Wallace and Karen Wippich. From left: “Hybrid Hands Waggle,” “Close Dyad Rolling” and “Walloping Box Sail.” Photo via Quarantine ARTifacts.

In groups of three, with at least one photographer per group, 3 sections of the body are photographed. There’s no discussion of what will be photographed, and bodies will be facing the camera and standing.

After having one week to photograph participants email the images to Jennifer, and she along with and another photographer, Brandon Robbins, will assemble the figures in Photoshop. 

“I hope that the people involved in the exquisite corpse project will feel a sense of creative connection. A sense that, ‘We made this together,’ and a feeling of accomplishment.

 Since they’re sending me only one section without knowing what their group members photographed, there’s also an opportunity for a little childlike wonder which we adults rarely get to experience.”

Jennifer Alsabrook-Turner
  • After teaching for 15 years, Jennifer founded Bang Images. She photographs mainly families, weddings and portraits. Follow her work on Instagram, Facebook and website.

Creating under social isolation

1. Mary Fehr, Facetime shoots + documenting the city

The fact that this was taken on a virtual photoshoot…I love creative minds. Photo courtesy of Mary Fehr.

In addition to documenting daily life in the city, Mary shoots portraits through virtual FaceTime sessions. Pushing her limitations with technology allows her to keep creating and challenge herself.

“I have my subject set up their phone and I direct them just like I would during a normal shoot and screenshot them as they move. Then edit and share! The quality isn’t the best, but it’s fun to push ourselves out of what we know.

I can also set up a model to remotely tether and control their camera from my computer. This has been a really exciting and cool way to work with people from all parts of the world from our own homes. 

“Art is ever-changing—in technology and subject matter. It always does and always will.  This pandemic has caused major disruptions in the business side of my work— and that might not ever be the same as it was as far as large weddings go.

But one thing won’t change for the art world—humans will keep making art. They will keep working, creating, inspiring, and sharing. They will document these strange periods of history the best way they know how, and we will forever be grateful for that.”

2. Tosha Gaines Photography, life as a healthcare worker

“This is the reality of being an #essentialworker#covid has us all living a new way of life. I cannot wait to see the light at the end of tunnel. Today, I had the energy to share a mask that a friend of my mine made. I am blessed that the #artcommunity that I love so much is helping other health care providers like me. #thankyou! We are blessed!”

Working on the frontlines of this nasty virus battle as a healthcare worker and having the energy to keep creating is mentally and physically draining. We’re so thankful to Tosha, and all of our essential workers, who risk their lives to keep us safe.

3. Wes Frazer, Social Distance Porch Series

“I drove around my city and made photos of some friends and some folks I barely know, keeping a safe distance between myself and them.”

Do you know how everyone has been sharing the art created during the Spanish flu? I love the idea that years and years from now porch pictures will appear in art museums and galleries as a piece of history.

4. Kelsey Collier, capturing every day of self-isolation

“Since I won’t be working this week or next, I have decided to do a self-isolation photo of the day each day until the isolation period is over. I hope you all enjoy, and may peace be with you.”

There’s something about a polaroid that captures the loneliness and somewhat eerieness of self-isolation. It’s like experiencing nostalgia, without ever living in that moment.

5. Je Vois Photography (Hillary Gamble), covering socially distant events

“At one point one of the celebrants said, ‘Happy birthday Mom, we love you. I wish we could hug you.’” 

Ouch yeah, that sentence almost made me lose it too. Without context of the present situation, you might not find anything that odd about the photo which makes it 10X more special, in my opinion.

Shameless plug: Bham Now + our very own Matthew Niblett

All of those aesthetically pleasing vids you’ve been bopping to on our feed lately come from the one-man team of Matthew Niblett, Bham Now’s multimedia producer. Unpopular opinion: biscuit video > rainbow bridge video.

Step up your Insta game and check out these 22 Birmingham photographers. Who are some more we can support? Let us know on social @bhamnow!