Disclosure—I have followed Greeson’s career and was one of the participants in this story which makes my critique of her work far from objective, but at the same time, imbuing it with a subject’s perspective on the photographic experience. -BH
Photographer Kathleen Greeson entered our home through facetime on an iPad and asked to be shown around. My wife Laurie and I gave her a virtual tour. We went from room to room sharing with her the spaces that while under lockdown during the pandemic, were becoming the boundaries of our world. She settled on our living room for the shoot and our two cats joined the session. She then told us where to place the iPad and planned her composition as we tweaked the position per her instructions. We rested the device on pillows to stabilize and elevate it, and followed her requests until she had what she wanted. She then moved us into position, a challenge when cats are involved, and captured our portrait— from Chattanooga—in a unique and universal moment in time
Greeson has entered into the homes of people all over the world, exploring their intimate spaces of refuge during the pandemic and taking portraits that range from joyful, to funny, to poignant. She has created a reflection of life in the time of Covid with all of its drama, joy, laughter, and profoundness, traveling thousands of miles all while staying safely in her own home.
While the images lack the slick hyper-real sharpness of modern digital cameras, the ethereal soft-focused portraits, processed in black and white, make for a dream-like view of this moment of life on earth. Without physically entering into our house, Greeson coaxed us into a tender moment, leaving us feeling more connected to the world around us and reminding us of the love that persists even during stressful and difficult times.
The idea of an entire planet of people all sheltering in place at the same time can be a lonely prospect, but in Greeson’s view, we are all in boats during a storm looking for safe harbor. Participating in her lovely project helped bring us safely to shore.
Phrases like “new normal” and “we’re all in the same boat” have been common in the past several months. I think we’re looking for our next normal and that we’re all in our own boat in the same tsunami.
I also believe we have never been part of such a globally shared experience as staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were the quiet majority, sheltering in place — finding our personal and familial boats in this corona storm .
When the world started to shut down, I naturally started thinking about how I could document this moment in time and this time in our history. How could I stay safe at home and still be creative and still capture this moment in history? The national and local news covered the loud scary stuff — the illness, death and all of the dangers, the closings and changes, the words and views of scientists, be them health, political or financial.
I wanted to find a way to cover the quiet story, the story of everyone staying home and looking for their next normal.
There were lots of front-porch photos of families and people in their windows online, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something from the inside out, not the outside in, and not just limited to where anyone lives or where they stay.
I wanted to photograph people safe in their homes, because in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the search for safety was everyone’s goal in this time in history.
My ‘Safe at Home’ project started with family and close friends. It has grown to sharing the safety and the security of home with people I have never met who live all over the world.
There have been new parents bringing their baby home for the first time, senior citizens isolated alone in their nursing homes, high-school seniors struggling with the disappointment of a lifetime memory lost, individuals struggling with depression, families reconnecting, and so much in between. I have been blessed to share and capture their joy and sadness, be them newly met people or life-long friends.
How crazy was the ride? I was even photo bombed by a chicken!
I hope this project will help bring us together in some small way even as we stay apart. Because, while we may not all look the same, speak the same language, or share the same culture, we are all caught in the same COVID-19 storm, and our homes have been our boats.
Kathleen Greeson is an award-winning documentary photographer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Upon graduating from the University of Georgia in 2000 with a degree in journalism she started her career at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and for the last 13 years has been a freelance photographer covering assignments nationally and internationally. She currently resides on Signal Mountain with her husband and two children.