The pandemic might have closed down production, but artists never stop creating. Shelter-in-place simply meant being inventive and turning an artistic eye in other directions. For this Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight female unit still photographers to see what they’ve been doing to feed their creative souls. The range of solutions they found was inspiring, from Ursula Coyote’s working in pastels to Anne Marie Fox documenting her aging father’s strength during stay at home. Felicia Graham opted for short walks around her neighborhood, while Beth Dubber visited the beach in L.A. We hope their creativity inspires other Local 600 members during this often challenging and unpredictable time.
Los Angeles-based Western Regional stills photographer Beth Dubber recently had a day off from work, and the kids were with their father, so she grabbed her camera and headed out. “No assignment, just a day to play,” she says. “I rarely go to the beach anymore,” she admits. “Living in L.A. it’s so near yet so far. It’s the traffic that deters me (not to mention kid’s bedtimes.) But, that day, I wanted to play around with sunset lighting, and I came up with these images shot at Santa Monica Beach, near the Annenberg Community Beach House. It felt as though it had been a long time since I made images for no reason, and simultaneously like it was yesterday.”
New Mexico-based Ursula Coyote found the perfect antidote to shelter-in-place – she dug into her garage and found her pastels. “I have always loved painting, but have been too locked into unit photography,” she shares. “Staring at a canvas, picking up a color, and letting my imagination go has been amazing.” And fine art isn’t just a way to stay grounded – Coyote seems to have found a second career. Recently, the Fox/Warner Bros The Cleaning Lady showcased several of her works. And she has delivered more to a producer in L.A. and a photo producer in New York. “I love doing unit stills. But, as much as the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, in a way,” she muses, “I’ll always be grateful for the ability to challenge myself in a different kind of creativity.”
Anne Marie Fox
L.A.-based Anne Marie Fox has been documenting her father, Martin Alvin Fox (affectionately nicknamed Papa Fox) since the beginning of the pandemic. “As a young man he considered himself an aspiring athlete, engaging in professional wrestling and swimming competitions,” Fox explains. “Unfortunately, now well into his 80’s, he grapples with occasional episodes of dementia. This has compelled me to keep him engaged in stimulating conversations, and regular excursions to the park and the beach. Documenting his daily activities assists him in jarring his memory. He can recall events via pictures more readily than I could ever anticipate.” For Fox, the images of her father are a reminder of what has been lost and yet endured during this pandemic – hopefully, with the grace, tolerance and perseverance of her beloved Papa Fox.
Texas-based Felicia Graham likes getting personal with her photography. Recently, one of her favorite friends faced breaking up a home and moving when the building they lived in was sold. “They asked me to come to Lockhart, a small town southeast of Austin to document the world they would leave behind – living above a clothing store,” Graham recounts. “Their home was all about Wilder – a kid’s wonderland. This was one of the last shots I took – and to me the most powerful. The look on Wilder’s face as he waves toward the future, standing in front of the old door to the only home she’s known said so much.”
Graham says the walks she takes with Jack her dog (named after a song by The Band) has saved her sanity during these crazy times. “I’ve never gotten into a routine of walking until COVID hit. Walking my dog became the only way to get out of the house. For the first few months, I tried to take different routes to find stuff to photograph or cool places to shoot Jack. This is one of my favorites. I had taken the chance to walk on someone’s property to get it, which I rarely do. There were no cars in the driveway. But the owner pulled up right when I finished. Now I play it safer. And even though I’m working four days a week, I still walk Jack three miles on my days off.”
New York-based Stephanie Mei-ling has returned to something that feeds her creative soul during these unusual times – the darkroom. “Sometimes when I feel stuck, creatively, I go back to the basics with my film camera,” she says. “Being in the dark room is therapeutic. I love to see my image created, from a vision to paper.” Capturing these two images grounded her. The skate photo was shot in Brooklyn with her Canon AE-1, Ilford HP5 400 film and printed on Ilford paper. She’s been doing self-portraits since quarantine started. “It helps me to self-reflect and sit with my emotions.” This shot was recently included in a group exhibit at Photoville.