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Photography during quarantine: Will Crooks's 'You Can't Go Home Again'

Published on Sunday, June 14, 2020

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Sue Portrait

Will Crooks Photo

Sue Portrait
"In this photograph I was looking to use the massive azaleas in full bloom and their incredible beauty as a juxtaposition to the pensive and inwardly turned expression of the subject in the images. The beam of light cutting across the subject draws attention to their expression and further creates a surreal and specific moment in time." – Will Crooks



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Jack Portrait“The framing in this photograph deliberately includes a bit of chain link fence in the corner of the frame as a physical representation of the sense of isolation and entrapment produced by the pandemic. The golden light kissing the upper section of the window helps bring in a contrasting element of beauty to compete with the harshness of the fence.” – Will Crooks
 
 

Will Crooks Photo

Jack Portrait
“The framing in this photograph deliberately includes a bit of chain link fence in the corner of the frame as a physical representation of the sense of isolation and entrapment produced by the pandemic. The golden light kissing the upper section of the window helps bring in a contrasting element of beauty to compete with the harshness of the fence.” – Will Crooks

 

 



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Glory Portrait

Glory Portrait
"The subject of this photograph is meant to be photographed with a sense of almost fairytale-like surrealism. The composition and subject create a visual narrative similar to that of Rapunzel. This combined with the amount of distance from the subject heightens the feeling of isolation." – Will Crooks

 

 



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Meet the authorGerson Petit is a senior English/Visual Studies double major at Bob Jones University. 
 

Meet the author
Gerson Petit is a senior English/Visual Studies double major at Bob Jones University. 

 



By GERSON PETIT

Like many professional creatives, Greenville-based commercial and editorial photographer Will Crooks witnessed his work suddenly dry up after Gov. Henry McMaster issued a stay-at-home order on April 6. Only five days after the quarantine started however, Crooks shot the first images of his new project “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

He said he got the title from the novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe. Through this project Crooks has explored the ironic implications of being trapped at home. “We (were) stuck in our most familiar spaces,” Crooks said. “But we (were) living in the most unfamiliar world.”

As COVID-19 swept across the nation, Crooks’s creative drive pushed him to start a new project. Instead of taking a documentary approach, Crooks said he “was more interested in the emotive space (of the pandemic).” Crooks’s series focuses on how the pandemic has affected individuals.

“I was interested in showing the space of isolation I think everyone feels to a degree,” Crooks said.

People in Greenville are struggling to reconcile their own experience of the pandemic – a quasi-normal life – with their knowledge of its devastation in other regions. “We sort of are experiencing two different worlds at the same time,” Crooks said. “You Can’t Go Home Again” portrays this real-life juxtaposition.

Usually Crooks gathers inspiration from other photographers. But for this project, inspiration came from what was missing in photojournalism – the depiction of isolation in smaller cities. “I wanted to make something with a different reference point,” Crooks said. In his images, Crooks combines idyllic natural settings with the melancholy mood of his subjects. Crooks described “You Can’t Go Home Again” as “a fine art statement on a current event.”

Crooks wanted to create relatable images that conveyed the experience of quarantine. “I wanted people to look at this and feel like other people (were) experiencing (the same),” Crooks said. Using only natural light, he photographed in the early morning or very late in the day. Crooks would start by talking with his subjects. “A lot of the conversation was getting (them) to forget about the camera,” Crooks said. “That’s my goal.”

The beauty of the images contrasts with the grim reality of the pandemic. Crooks used spring vegetation to emphasize nature’s immunity to the pandemic and to “(remind) us of our own humanity.”

In Crooks’s opinion, replicating this kind of project in the future would appear too artificial. “Unless we go back to a lockdown it wouldn’t look the same,” he said. Due to the nature of the project, working with natural light posed the greatest challenge. Often, Crooks would wait for hours until the lighting perfectly matched his subject’s expression.

Before the start of the quarantine, Crooks tore his left foot’s plantar fascia. With only one fully operative leg, Crooks still managed to climb on ladders and take photos. “The process (was) pretty silly because I (had) this contraption on,” Crooks said.

Gerson Petit is a senior English/Visual Studies double major at Bob Jones University. 

 

 

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