Shutter Hub member Phil Harvey is a writer, editor and photographer based in Fort Worth, Texas. His simple, restrained portraits aim to amplify the subject’s strength and humanity at turning points in their lives.
One of his portraits from this series, “Vincent, masked,” was part of the Texas Juried Exhibition at the Artspace111 gallery in Fort Worth throughout July, and having heard about this, and seen the series, we asked Phil to share it with us here.
On Sunday, March 8, my son boarded a bus with his high school choir and they set off for a performing and sight-seeing tour of New Mexico and Arizona. Days later he’d be sending us snapshots from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Two years earlier, also while on a school choir trip, he sent photos from a scenic point along the Great Wall of China.
Those tours and trips have been incredible experiences for him and my heart did sink a little when, days before scheduled, the spread of the coronavirus in the US chased the choir’s tour bus back home. The virus and the awful disease it caused, COVID-19, officially deemed a pandemic on March 11, cut short that Spring Break trip and completely canceled an even bigger choir adventure in July, to the World Choir Games in Flanders, Belgium.
When the Grand Canyon trip was over, my son and his classmates unloaded their bus, gather their belongings and they’ve been home since.
Finishing a school year at home via online conferences and digital classroom programs is tough on everyone, but for kids in an art school, it felt particularly odd. It’s an integral part of their education to sing together and blend their voices, to dance on stages, to act for audiences and to show off their artwork to crowds.
As I watched my son, Owen, adjust to online school and social distancing, I thought about what my life was like in school and wondered if I could ever have managed as well. What if my whole identity as a teenager had been partially rewritten in just a few short weeks? What would I have felt if a defining year of my high school life had been cut short in such a strange and sudden way?
It was tough to know what to do next so I started making portraits. I don’t know how this will feel in a few year’s time, but right now, even while “we’re all in this together,” it can feel, at times, like we’re very much alone.
Over the next couple of months, I asked my fellow parents of kids the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, class of 2022, if I could stop by – masked, socially distant, and outdoors only – to take a portrait of their singers, artists, dancers, and performers.
My hope was to provide a visual reference point for this group of kids to mark an unprecedented school year. The experience gave Owen, my suddenly all-too-available first assistant, a chance to see his pals and partially re-connect. We’re learning to be socially distant, extra careful, but still make our way out into the world. Smiles behind masks are a little different, but just as heartwarming.
One thing I have learned by speaking to these creative kids is that one aspect of creativity is the ability to live with a bit of ambiguity and adapt quickly and keep producing art. The kids I photographed are in this together; they won’t be held back for long.
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