A Day in the Life with Eastern Region Still Photographers

A special spring edition of 600LIVE!'s photo gallery series

May 5, 2021
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East Coasters have a strength and determination different from other parts of the country. When the pandemic hit, Local 600 unit still photographers from the eastern region didn’t hesitate to pivot their “focus” from on-set images to the unfolding dynamism of the world around them. “It was both an escape and a reality check,” describes New Jersey-based Alyssa Longchamp of the stunning drone images she shot during the lockdown. Neil Jacobs decided to turn his lens on what he calls, “the beautiful and natural environment of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains,” where the forest provides a nestled feeling of comfort, and nature’s creatures use your driveway as a thoroughfare. New Jersey-based Bennett Raglin says when he ventured back into Manhattan, he captured images of an almost “ghostly” city, devoid of tourists and activity. For Pennsylvania-based Jessica Kourkounis, shooting kids and animals “awakened an innocent sense of curiosity and wonder.” The forced time away from the set, fueled each of these union member’s creativity, and as Longchamp observes, “showed us how lucky we really are.”

Jessica Kourkounis (Pennsylvania)

In 2019, Jessica Kourkounis, along with her husband and stepdaughter bought a large house in Philadelphia that sat on a rare acre of city land and included a small carriage house apartment. “During the pandemic, we formed a COVID pod with my brother and his family,” Kourkounis shares. “We spent much of our time outside, reminding me of summers as a kid as I watched my niece run around with our two dogs, one cat and four chickens. Most days felt more like summer camp than a global crisis,” she admits.

Before starting a flourishing unit stills career, Kourkounis made her living as a photojournalist. “I tried to tap back into my days before lighting crews and repeat performances and remembered I haven’t always dreaded working with kids and animals,” she laughs. “When you are shooting in their world, it takes on the innocent sense of curiosity and wonder that often fades in adult life. As I’ve returned to set, I am working harder to incorporate that mindset and find more of those unscripted moments.”

 

Neil Jacobs (North Carolina)

A show that set to start March 13, 2020 was cancelled when the U.S. announced the pandemic shut-down. A relatively new resident of Asheville, North Carolina, Jacobs had been casually observing nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains; and photographing the beautiful natural environment during isolation was a timely fit. “I have access to private land near the Blue Ridge Parkway and can hike several miles without encountering another person,” he explains. “I love the variety of trees but always find it a challenge to shoot in the forest. There is so much growth, it is difficult to isolate what I see. But I’m learning another way to view my new East Coast environment.” The other nature project Jacobs fell into was wildlife. “I feel like I’m living in a zoo,” he adds. “My driveway has become a route the local black bears follow. I can photograph wild turkeys flying from a tree; a blue jay wanting some of a cooper hawk’s kill and a mother black bear resting while her cubs play – and never leave my house.”

 

Bennett Raglin (New Jersey)

Bennett Raglin and his family’s home base is Jersey City, NJ, right across from the Freedom Tower, in New York City. But when the pandemic hit, he and his family escaped to their second home in Upstate New York. “Work brought us back to New York,” Raglin muses. But it was a different place then he ever remembered. Gone were the tourists, the hustle and bustle of the country’s busiest island , where all commerce had ground to a halt. Raglin says he began to see the familiar in a different way. “The Oculus Transport hub had an estimated 50,000 commuters pass through daily,” he shares. “But when COVID hit, the emptiness was unbelievable. And The Vessel design by Thomas Heatherwick is now New York’s newest attraction, which has a beautiful glow at night. And to see Ray’s Pizza, a late night staple off Times Square, become lifeless – it truly defined this ‘once in a lifetime’ event.”

 

Alyssa Longchamp (New Jersey)

When Alyssa Longchamp’s sister gave her a drone as a gift, Longchamp was excited to dabble in aerial photography and video. Little did she know that the gift would be a main catalyst for keeping her focused on her creativity during the pandemic. “I got into photography for the love of portraits, and never found myself to be a landscape photographer of any sort at all,” she reflects, adding that she used her craft to stave off pandemic depression. “I remember the first time I decided to just take my drone out and have fun. It was so liberating! Not only did I have a chance to escape the familiar walls of home, but I had the chance to see the world from a completely different view. When you are flying your drone, it feels like you yourself are flying. I saw the beauty of the world and it made me think of how lucky we all are to be able to live here. Especially in such dreary times. It was both an escape and a reality check at the same time.”

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