Being first time parents, there have been many times when my husband and I have looked at each other with sheer panic on our faces. Most recently when we received notice that our créche (childcare in France) would be closing for the foreseeable future thanks to the global pandemic of COVID-19. You see, we are Americans living in a small village in the South of France away from any family or friends who might be around to help us with our 15 month-old baby Eloise.
It was already seemingly impossible with the help of créche to accomplish everything we felt we needed to be done in order to keep our creative jobs going. I am a photographer and my husband, a design director. My fear was not only in losing our jobs and income for the year but having to dedicate our days to childcare instead of finding work to sustain us.
There were moments in the beginning of the state mandated lockdown where we were completely overwhelmed by the needs of a toddler, being quarantined at home for months and with financial fear for our future. I hated living with all the uncertainty. It wasn’t a healthy mental place for me to be in–so I made a bold move. I told my husband, “I’m going to make one piece of art a day during lockdown, share the process on Instagram Stories and post them live for the world to see. And I’m going to call it #isolationcreation.”
I needed him to be on board for it to work because we needed to adjust and devise a tradeoff plan with Eloise in order to make it work.
The goal was to make each day’s photograph into a shoppable, collectable poster series that was affordable. It was also important to me to donate 10% of what we make to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency relief fund for artists affected by COVID-19. In doing so, we took this horrible situation and created something positive everyday, building a community under the hashtag over 300,000 people strong. We felt less alone out there and established a chain of support.We made commitment, we made the announcement and away we began what would ultimately be 60 days of #isolationcreation.
The only way we could make this work was by bringing our baby into the process and making the reality of her life part of the story instead of fighting for free time to create. Some days I needed to find new subject matter so we would go foraging in her running stroller under the guise of “exercise.” Everything I picked I let her touch and smell in wonder with me. We chased butterflies, which inspired which butterflies from my case collection I would use for that day’s work. When we played in our little private garden, she found a snail and we let it crawl all over her and that defined Day Fifteen’s photograph. When she had a blowout in her crib and I had the laundry to do for it, Day Nine’s subject matter wrote itself. When she became obsessed with playing with water, it was a joy to create Day Twenty-Four. I learned to just welcome the day into the art.
Many times I brought her into my studio for a portion of the creation process. To watch me build little sets, or talk to the Instagram community on the phone. I let her style the peas on Day Twenty-Two and add a red fallen petal on Day Forty. I wanted her to see me work, to understand mama was making something and to be part of that process. Even at her young age, I think she understood looking at something and creating. Somewhere along the way she began to say “Mama” when she saw flowers and it dawned on me, my most important job is being Eloise’s mother and part of that job is showing her what it means to work on something you love to do. We changed our priorities, split the day and duties, in order for me to be both a mother and a photographer.
This did not come without challenges. The amount of time we had to work while the other parent took Eloise was dramatically short. In the beginning of quarantine she wasn’t even napping much so it was endless baby handling. I begged for a break in my head, my husband and I crashed every night. I wasn’t sure how we were going to survive but by building a goal of the day for the three of us to work around gave us some structure, positivity, lessons for Eloise and most importantly a purpose. For 60 days straight we moved around between our little apartment and my studio downstairs and our garden. What at first felt claustrophobic, later turned into our safe happy shelter.
Each day there was something new to look forward to, what we can discover without leaving home together. Then, the most wonderful thing happened. I realized COVID-19 gave me the greatest gift of all – time. Time away from all the options and to-dos to just be with my baby. To show her things, and watch her day by day grow. When we started the lockdown Eloise could only crawl and when we ended it, she was almost running and we witnessed every step along the way. Now, the three of us are walking into a new future together. And I’m so happy I have the memories, saved under #IsolationCreation, to remind me of this journey.
Jamie Beck is a photographer, visual artist, and story-teller who translates the world through her camera lens and social media imprint. A Texas native who began her photography career in New York in 2003, Beck is a social media early adopter often dubbed an “original influencer.” With her husband and creative partner Kevin Burg, the duo pioneered a new form of photography they called “Cinemagraphs,” many of which have gone viral, garnering millions of views and countless shares. Beck has worked with industry-leading brands including Google, Samsung, Netflix, Disney, Microsoft, Nike and MTV. She has been featured in Adweek Magazine’s “Creative 100” amongst the industry’s top Visual Artists. In what started as a one year sabbatical from New York to focus on her personal body of work, Jamie now resides full-time in Provence, France with her husband and oneyear old daughter Eloise.