Pandemic Hobbies

I was photographing a student named Archelle a few months back when she told me she’d recently learned how to skateboard. It was just something she decided to teach herself while dealing with the pandemic. Actually you can see Archelle on her board HERE (scroll down to find her).

I have been covering life on campus – or the lack thereof as the case feels like – since March. For the most part, there isn’t much fun in the job. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job, but we are in serious times, and that is reflected in our BU Today coverage. Thanks to Archelle, I came up with the idea to do a fun photo essay on Pandemic Hobbies. What other hobbies were people getting in to?

A “call out” was made on BU’s social channels and on BU Today, asking our readers if they have a hobby they’ve picked-up since the start of the pandemic. Interested people – faculty, staff, and students – could email me and tell me about their hobby to be considered for the project.

One woman contacted me to tell me about her new love of Indian dance. She loved dressing up with bells on her ankles and joining a class online to learn.

Amazing! I had a vision in my head of color and movement! This will be great!

Where do you live? I asked her.

Sri Lanka!

Ah, so out call out needed a tweak as many didn’t understand that I would be photographing them and as a result, they could not be far out of Massachusetts.

The other rule was that your hobby had to be new or newly discovered after a long sabbatical. Many people tried to sell their bicycling, which they’ve been doing for years, as a pandemic hobby. True, this hobby may have provided the rider some stress relief, and that’s great, but the idea is that participants have tried someone completely new to them!

Plenty of people came forward (including many sourdough bakers!), and I compiled a hearty list of hobbyists and a variety of interests. I had a delightful time meeting everyone, learning about their hobby, and photographing something so fun and “normal”.

It published today and the response has been really great, thankfully.

Chatting with Dad about it today, he made an interesting observation. “Some of the people are focusing on their project, but they’re smiling” Had I directed them? Had I told them to smile?

It’s very true that this project walks the line of being a series of portraits (which are often posed), and “fly on the wall” images (unposed slices of life).

I joined subjects when they would be doing their activity, they did that activity where they typically did that activity, rather than setting them somewhere where they wouldn’t typically work. In fact, one subjects sewing machine was located in such a tricky spot, that I had to do a more standard portrait, rather than have her “do her thing” and let me take pictures while she was at it. I didn’t want her to rearrange her room for the photo and then claim that was authentic, so I made a more clearly posed shot of her.

Quite a few people smiled on their own, without me being involved. But some instances, like the cook and the jeweler, for example, are smiling because I am talking to them about something, or maybe they were telling me something. So my existence in the space effected the facial expressions.

It was a really fun project to do, albeit challenging with need for safety. It brought levity, and the people I visited seemed to enjoy having the company for a bit and to be in the spotlight, however small.

Click here to view the project!

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