Childhood Unplugged Features Stephanie Bryan

Today on Childhood Unplugged I am so excited to share a little bit about an artist that I am having fun getting to know lately. I first discovered Stephanie Bryan’s work through a private Facebook group for those who have purchased Jonathan Canlas FINDinabox. Her work is whimsy, colorful, fun and full of fleeting childhood moments of her two little ones. So without further ado let’s dive in!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

Hi! I’m Stephanie! I live in Raleigh, NC with my two sweet kiddos (Anna + Drew) and my husband Scott, where I spend most of my days with a camera in hand photographing our days and the days of others. When I’m not snapping away, I am reading a book, taking a run or just goofing off with my kids (probably the latter).

I know you love to shoot film. Tell us a little bit about why you choose film especially to document your children?

Photography has been my passion for as long as I can remember and truly allows me to get in touch with my creative side. Last year, I started my journey back into film photography after struggling with a lack of creativity/excitement with my personal (digital) work. I was always SO focused on WHAT I captured on the back of my screen that I lost the whole concept of capturing moments and recording memories. I found myself often disappointed with my final result – and often frustrated with my kids for not falling into that moment like I had expected. Film is absolutely magical to me and it has completely changed how I photograph my own family and others. Film makes me slow down, watch the scene and wait for the moment. I see the world differently with a film camera.

Playing together is so important. What are some of your favorite unplugged activities to do with your kids?

My husband and I always say that the best thing we ever did for our children is to give them each other. They truly are best friends and spend about 99% of their time playing random games and pretend scenarios. As a family, we LOVE spending time outside at parks (my husband loves to fly kites), playing board games and basically doing anything that involves a challenge. Our absolute favorite game, though, is this simple little game called “Animal Wars” we made up at dinner one night. We are very much an “anti-electronic” family at the dinner table and we use this time to sit down together, talk about our day and play our silly game. I love it because it brings us together and makes us really listen to one another without the distraction of electronics. 

Do you always keep a camera on hand? If so, what is your go to camera?

I find I go through phases with my camera. I tried doing the “photo a day” challenge last year and ended up feeling more bored and frustrated than inspired. Now I pick my camera up when the inspiration hits and go crazy. I’ve learned that it’s totally ok to NOT be photographing every single moment of our lives. Sometimes it’s better to live them, you know? But I do always have my cameras close by just in case! My go-to camera is my Canon 1V loaded with Kodak ColorPlus 200 film!

It’s Saturday morning with no agenda in sight. You have the entire day to spend with your family. What does that look like? Go!

Well that sounds ideal for sure! Our day would probably start with pancakes, coffee and snuggles on the couch followed by a few epic games of War (my son is slightly obsessed with this game). Then we’d probably venture out for some time at the park (with our kite in hand) and then finish it off with a bonfire in our backyard and some steaks on the grill! Sounds delightful!

Do you have an all time favorite image? If so, share it with us and tell us why you hold the memory so near and dear.

Gah! I don’t think I could pick just one. I love so many of our captured moments for so many different reasons. I think every picture I’ve ever taken takes me back to that specific moment and makes me feel something. They may not be perfectly composed or technically correct, but I just love them all.

Do you have any rules for the kids when it comes to screen time (television, computer, video games)? There is no wrong or right answer. Just always curious how other families are balancing it all out.

For our family, electronics are only allowed on the weekends (and then only in moderation). We are so busy with school, homework and sports during the week that we really just don’t have any time for electronics. For my kids, out of sight truly is out of mind. They rarely ask to play games or watch television because we just don’t do it that often. They spend the majority of their time out on our trampoline or playing in the backyard with our neighbors! 

It’s a new year. Any new personal projects on the horizon?

I’m a rules follower by nature. I like order and consistency and structure. But sometimes that just feels so darn boring. So for me, 2018 is all about stepping out of my “comfort zone” and trying new things when it comes to my personal work. Basically I’m throwing the rules and others expectations out the window and allowing myself to be different, seek out weirdness and embrace whatever comes along! 

What do you most want your children to look back on and remember from their childhood?

My husband and I talk about this all the time. I think for me, I want them to look back on their childhood and see nothing but happiness, joy and love. I want them to remember our time together as a family- our evenings of playing War, our lazy Saturday trips to the park and our awesome “Animal Wars” battles at dinner- and see that we were always together and that they are truly loved.

Thank you Stephanie for taking some time to share a bit about yourself with our readers. It’s honestly been a delight. xo, Monica Calderin





Childhood Unplugged Features Rachel Papo


Rachel Papo‘s photographs have been exhibited and published worldwide, she has been awarded a NYFA Fellowship, been a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography, and received the Ronnie Heyman Prize for an Emerging Jewish Visual Artists, her work is captivating and thought provoking, and finally she is my friend.  I had the fortune of getting to know her when we studied for our MFA in photography at The School of Visual Arts and I was immediately drawn to her work.  A few years later, after moving to Miami and eventually into our current home with space for my growing photography collection, I bought one of her pieces from the series Desperately Perfect.  Her new work continues to deliver and it is my pleasure to share it all with you on Childhood Unplugged! Read More

Childhood Unplugged Features Kirsty Larmour


Her work has been featured in several publications, interviews and exhibitions. In 2015 she was listed as one of the top 100 photographers to watch. Her and her husband are passionate about travelling and sharing this great big beautiful world with their two daughters. If you visit her websites and/or Instagram page you will see what I mean, there is just something magical about their travels. I seriously enjoy following their journey. So without further ado….

Welcome Kirsty to Childhood Unplugged! We are so very thrilled to be featuring you on our blog. Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

Hello and thank you for having me here. I’m a British photographer-Mama, with an Irish husband and two daughters who were born in China and the United Arab Emirates. We are based in Abu Dhabi, but lucky enough to spend a lot of time on the road exploring the beauty the big wide world has to offer. Read More

Childhood Unplugged features Deborah Parkin


Today on Childhood Unplugged I have the distinct privilege to be interviewing Deborah Parkin; an artist who’s work documenting her family life and environment has been exhibited and published worldwide and is held in many private collections from individual collectors to museums and galleries including the Fox Talbot Museum (UK), the Centre for Fine Art Photography (US) and the Charlet Gallery (Paris).

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Childhood Unplugged Features Jeremy and Ashley Parsons with We Are The Parsons

I came across the Parsons through a Don’t Give Up story that you can watch here. I remember it impacting me profoundly. I needed more. I wanted to learn more about these artists, and I did. They offered a class through The Define School called Around The Table. It was through this class that I learned more about how important it is to keep our photographs uncensored. To allow our images to tell the true story. Our paths have continued to cross over the past couple of years and I am completely honored to be featuring them here on Childhood Unplugged today. So without further ado…

Welcome Jeremy and Ashley!  Could you share briefly about yourselves for our readers?

Thank you so much for hosting our thoughts and images in this special place, the pleasure is all ours! 

We are a couple of dreamers and makers who live, love, and raise three wonderful boys (and six chickens) in a 130 year old home on an oversized lot in the midwest United States. We’ve been married for fifteen years, professional photographers for ten of those, and we count ourselves really privileged to be able to run our own business and do what we love for a living. Most of our photography work involves shooting weddings all over the world, or telling stories of motherhood with Ash’s latest project . We are also a bit strange in the sense that we have been off of social media for about a year and three months now, and have no desire to return. We podcast about our social media hiatus on iTunes at The Boredom Experiment, and this project is a family event, so that’s been really fun. Jeremy grew up a pastor’s kid climbing mountains with his dad in Colorado. His secret superpowers are that he lifts things and builds things. I (Ash) grew up as a missionary kid learning to ride my bike on the red dirt roads in Africa. My secret superpowers include playing with words in a little trailer in our back yard and homemaking. Read More

Childhood Unplugged Features Nate Kaiser


I’ve admired and have been a huge fan of Nate Kaiser’s film work for quite a few years now. It brings me great pleasure to be featuring his personal work today on Childhood Unplugged.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

I’m Nate, husband to Jaclyn, father to Grace (12) and Jasper (8). Jaclyn and I got married when we were 18 and 21, and 12 days before our one year anniversary we welcomed our daughter Grace into the world. We’ve been married for 13 years and have run our wedding and portrait photography business, The Image Is Found together for the past 14 years. We do photography full time, while balancing homeschooling our children, and travel much of the year to wherever our wedding schedule happens to take us.

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Childhood Unplugged Features Jess Soper

Jess_Soper_Photography-5I first stumbled upon Jess Soper while sifting through the #childhoodunplugged hashtag in search of images to feature. I found the image of one of her boys under a bridge, his shoes and socks haphazardly flung to the side and I was immediately overcome with that feeling of nostalgia. I thought of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise and life on the road. It’s amazing how you can fall in love with an artist based on a story you gave to a single image. And when I dove deeper, I only fell deeper in love.

I hope you’ll enjoy learning a bit more about her, too.

Tell us three interesting things about yourself. 

I got so bored of looking in my wardrobe and wondering what I should I wear, that I’ve decided to wear a type of uniform, minimalist and practical!  I’m only a month in, so this could get really dull – but so far so good!
I cry in the car A LOT.  Most of the time I cry because I’m happy,  I’ll be listening to good music and thinking how lucky I am and how good life is,  then the tears will start rolling. But sometimes I’ll be listening to the the news and I’m just overwhelmed with sadness.  Luckily I rarely cry when I have passengers (apart from my kids, who are quite used to me being mental!)
All I’ve ever wanted to do is tell stories, when I was a kid I used to make up ridiculous lies. Then I thought I’d be an author, but I could never sit down and write for long, so I got a degree in Journalism, but realised most news is depressing.  Luckily my photos are my way of telling stories now and they flow for me much easier than words, I love giving people photos which tell a little part of their story and in the future I’d love to do a documentary project.
What was it like growing up on a farm and how did it shape the way you’ve decided to raise your own children? 
I lived my childhood on two very different sorts of farms.  The first was my nan’s feral, bohemian cattle farm.  We lived in a small bungalow on the edge of her farm and everything there was ramshackle. Farm buildings cobbled together from scrap wood, plants growing through windows, cows escaping into our garden.  It was wild and free, a childhood filled with mud and imagination. I’d pop to my nans for tea and she would send us into the garden to collect freshly grown vegetables. We’d return to the house and find a cockerel on the kitchen table or a calf in the shower. And to add to the madness the whole farm was surrounded by the M25 (the large motorway encircling London) and just down the road was a bone factory which pumped out the most awful smell, which I can still remember vividly. So it was certainly not a ‘conventional’ start to country life, whatever that means!
Later on we moved to a much more idyllic farm in the soft, Suffolk countryside, where I think I really found a deep love for nature and the harmony and peace that you can only really get from roaming free outside.
Without a doubt both those experiences have shaped how I bring up my boys. I’m a very hands-off parent and passionate about fostering a love for the outdoors in them.  We live in a town house with a small garden, so my kids don’t have acres of land to explore but we spend most of our free time roaming around outdoors.  We camp often, go to the woods, swim in the rivers, explore the seashore, even in the freezing rain, we’ll be outside, it’s just become woven into part of our daily lives. I love to see my children covered in mud, picking up bugs and playing games created from their imaginations.  I don’t believe kids should be worried about how their clothes look or if there are twigs in their hair, I want my kids to be resilient and independent. I also try to let them do their own things a lot,  I had lots of time on the farm, which in all honesty was just plain fucking boring, I didn’t appreciate it that much at the time, but I see now the beauty in unstructured time where you can be not only bored but also silently inspired, so I do make sure I don’t overplan my kids lives and I like seeing how their creativity evolves when they are left to their own devices.
Tell us a little about your boys and a few things that make them unique.
My eldest is a real nature lover, he says he wants to be a skateboarding explorer, who lives in a log cabin in the woods.  He is sensitive and deep, a thoughtful child but also pretty temperamental, exploding at the most inconvenient moments! He is also a non-stop-making-machine. Everyday he writes stories, draws, paints, makes models from junk… our house is a mass of paper and strange objects glued together. I definitely see a lot of myself as a child in him.
My youngest is far more easy going, just 3 days after he was born he was laughing in his sleep.Like his brother he loves to be outside, but life doesn’t seem to be so intense for him and he has an infectious contentment about him that just rubs off on everyone.  He still loves to run wild though, he loves being in water too and is great at climbing and swinging from high objects!
They make a great combination and most of the time they get on well, I hope that lasts as they get older.Jess_Soper_Photography-9
What kinds of things do your boys enjoy?
They are definitely outdoor children, they love running, climbing trees, attacking each other with sticks, camping, burning things and of course making…. so much making!  We don’t have many toys at home, which is a deliberate choice, I’m a bit of a minimalist at heart and I want my kids to understand the value and meaning of the things they have, which can be hard in such a disposable age. But also I realised quite early on that my kids hardly ever play with toys.  Apart from a few toy cars, dinosaurs, some dressing up bits and lego they seem unfazed by everything else.  Infact, recently, what they seem to enjoy doing most with their toys, is throwing them out of the window, so we’re down to the bare minimum now!
It’s the weekend and you have nothing that you need to do. How do you and your family spend the day? 
Dom, my boyfriend, normally gets up with the kids because he is a better person than me,  and I’m totally crap in the morning. Then he’ll bring us up tea and we’ll hide, undisturbed in the bedroom for an hour or so.  After a slow start we’ll normally head out to somewhere outside, the woods, sea, country park etc. normally finishing with a good lunch at a pub and sometimes meeting up with friends, that’s a pretty standard weekend for us if we’re at home.
It’s important for adults to have unplugged time too. How do you like to spend your time when you have a few moments to yourself?
I normally plug myself in, not unplug myself and any spare time I get is spent editing photos, or learning new techniques or finding inspiration!  But I try and read books fairly regularly, do a bit of yoga, sometimes I’ll do some self-portraits if I’m feeling creatively blocked up.  My real escapism is music though, for me there is nothing as powerful as music in letting you escape. I’ve had a few nights out this summer with my friends, child-free and care free with lots of dancing and that to me is the absolute best way to unplug!
What do you want your boys to remember most from their childhood?
That they were loved and that their parents loved each other  That we had some fantastic friends and family in our lives and that we might have been a bit odd but we had a whole load of fun, and most of that fun was free.
I dread to think what they’ll actually remember, probably holidays in wet, cheese-smelling tents, frazzled parents always telling them to be quiet and stop destroying things, a mum who could never find their shoes (or hers) and a dad who was always dragging them to festivals and making them dance to house music in the living room with all the lights off.
I think children who spend more time in nature become more independent and confident adults. Would you agree? Please elaborate. 
Yes!  I’m super passionate about letting kids have plenty of time in nature!
I don’t think you need to live in the country to let your kids have this freedom though.  Nature is everywhere, it’s in that patch of grass on the corner of the road, it’s in that wet, muddy puddle, it’s the slug hiding under the bin.  When I stand in the playground and hear parents telling their kids off for getting dirty hands, or mud on their school tops, or telling them to put down that ‘gross creature’, my heart shatters.
Letting your kids get mucky, letting them explore and be free is so important.  It fosters excitement and respect for the world around them. Nature is all around us, accessible and free which is hugely liberating to most children who spend so much of their lives being told what they can and can’t do. They can really push their limits, creatively, intellectually and physically, when they are outside. The sense of achievement from things like, lighting  your own fires or climbing trees is never forgotten.
Let your children embrace nature, and let them be free and unrestricted, let them take off their shoes and get mucky, let them swim in the sea with all their clothes on, let them laugh when they tread in a cow pat and I have no doubt your kids will be 100% happier and more confident as adults. In fact, I think in many ways, it is the only hope for the human race, without these people with a love and affinity for this world we are doomed, hopefully our kids will do a better job than we have.
I often think of the childhood unplugged movement as being more about what we do instead of what we don’t do, but I’m also curious about screen time in other’s homes. Do your boys enjoy TV/screen time? Is it something that you limit or is it not even an issue?
They love watching films, nature documentaries and a few other bits and bobs. I’m no cultural snob and trust me I’m extremely grateful that this form of entertainment exists, I might have had a breakdown without it by now!
I think our kids are so lucky to grow up in a world with so much access to information, with just a little curiosity you can pretty much teach yourself anything, which is an incredible thing.  On the other hand we don’t have a TV and the kids are restricted to watching things on a half broken laptop.  Not surprisingly, they don’t spend a whole lot of time on there!
That was a conscious choice when they were little, and they now self-limit themselves fairly well – much better than me!  My eldest son asked for a tablet once, as a lot of his friends at school have them.  We didn’t get him one so he made one out of an acorn and a bit of paper and was totally happy!!
Are your children ever bothered by you photographing their adventures? How do you maintain a balance of being present and still capturing the moments that you do?
Mostly they are unphased, I think it’s just second nature to them. They do have their moments, normally when they’re tired, where they tell me to not take photos and I try my best to not to.  I think it’s important to respect that.  In terms of staying present I think photographing them actually helps me to do that.  We spend a lot of time outside and when they are off doing their own thing I love to be able to potter around with my camera,  it means we probably spend a lot longer outside than we might do otherwise.  It also leads us on some ridiculous adventures. Sometimes, I get lost in the idea of a good photo and will neglect bedtimes and all the usual rules about what they can do. Only the other week we were camping and I was putting them to bed when I spotted a great sunset on the way, somehow the ‘going to bed’ turned into a walk through miles of sand dunes, boys in nothing but pyjamas and only a camera between us.  We made it all the way to the sea, had a swim, saw the best sunset of the year and returned back to the tent hours later to a very confused dad who wondered where the hell we’d been!
I love that you give your oldest a camera to use from time to time. Tell us about the things he’s captured.
I think it’s really important that you share the things you love with your children, and of course if they’re around cameras all the time they naturally gravitate towards them.  He has his own compact which he’ll take out on walks with us or when when we go on holiday.  I love looking at his photos, he’ll photograph a lot of nature but if we’re around people they’ll be the main subject of his photos, recently he’s also started getting me to pose in ludicrous places.  The other day I had to lie on a patch of grass, trying desperately to avoid the piles of dog poo, because he wanted to get me lying down with my eyes closed in the golden sunset light!
Do you have a favorite photograph and if so, can you tell us about it?
I’m so fickle, I literally change my favourites every week or so. I’m like that with everything, but at the moment it’s this one. I only had a second to grab this photo, we were out on a walk when we spotted this thistledown,my son held this to his face and said ‘it is like soft-pillows for fairies’.  I was lucky with the light and within a moment he was off and into something else, but I knew this one would be special to me.  I love it as a beautiful picture in it’s own right, but also because it reflects him so completely.
How did you first get into photography? Did what you were drawn to photographing change after you had kids?
My dad was a keen photographer when I was growing up and he used to develop his own films, this obviously had an influence on me.  But really it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I began to get serious about taking photos. Having kids helped re-open my creativity which I think had been pretty repressed for a lot of years. My children have definitely shaped my photographic style, they are wild and free, not the sort of children you could get to sit still for long, so I’ve had to learn to be quick on my feet, looking for beauty in unusual situations.  They also teach you to notice all those tiny meaningful details in life that you often forget about as adults. Although being a mother can sometimes appear to be a thankless task, there is no doubt they have inadvertently taught me as much about life as I have taught them.
What kind of gear do you shoot with?
A nikon d750 with a 35mm 1.8 lens which is what I use most the time, I also love my lensbaby edge 80 for when I’m in a creative rut.  That’s what I shoot with most of the time, apart from weddings and other work where I’ll have a flash and couple of other lenses, I’m pretty minimal with gear though.  I don’t like to feel burdened by stuff.

Childhood Unplugged Features Jesse Burke

jesseburke1Jesse Burke is not only one of the newest member of Childhood Unplugged, he’s also the author of Wild & Precious, a collection of images he’s shot of his daughters in nature over the last few years. He’s tremendously talented, has a clever vision, and it’s my honor to introduce you to both him and his work. With no further adieu…
Perhaps we should start off with a general introduction. Tell us where you’re from and three things about yourself.
I’m from Stratford, Connecticut but I consider myself a New Englander at large. I spent many days, weeks, months traveling around all of my life. We live in Rhode Island these days.
Things about me:
I’m a huge, major nerd. I take my family, which is composed of my three daughters, Clover Lee, Poppy Dee, and Honey Bee, and my wife Kerry, out and explore nature a couple of times a week. I think it’s so important for them to be physically in touch with the natural world.
I spent most of my life as a skateboarder. This may not seem like a major thing but it as truly shaped who I am as a person and parent.
In addition to being a photographer I also teach at Rhode Island school night. I went there for school and feel a deep need to stay connected to academia and help students become awesome artists.
I notice you shoot a lot of commercial work but I’ll bet your heart lies in your personal work, which I feel like is common for many photographers. Give us a brief synopsis about your personal project, Wild & Precious.
Wild & Precious documents the road trips I embark on with my daughters in order to get them intimately connected to the natural world. It also serves as a love story between father and daughter, man and nature and children and nature. It shows all of the adventures we have on the road, where we sleep, what we eat, and the objects and animals we come in contact with.jesseburke3Maybe this is too personal, but I’m curious about your own upbringing. Did the way you were personally raised play a direct role in how you are in-turn raising your girls?
I think as parents we take the things we think worked from our own upbringing and push them forward onto our children and we discard the things we don’t think worked very well. I find myself taking a few of the things that happened between my parents and I and utilizing them but I’m really trying to do something different from what my parents did. I’m in a very different situation than they were. My career affords me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my children and include them in my artwork which really is a magical opportunity.
To teach about nature you too must know the ins and outs. Is this something you tackled as an adult or grew up learning from someone else? What kinds of things, in regards to life or nature, do you make a point to teach your daughter, Clover?
As a child I spent a lot of time outside in the woods. I became very familiar with the indigenous species where I lived, which wasn’t all that rural. So I guess you can say I am self-taught.  When I moved back to New England after college and started my first real art project I got very invested in the landscape of the natural world of New England. I took it upon myself to really learn about animals and nature. This has of course parlayed into me teaching my children about that, as seen in my Wild & Precious project.  The two things that I really try to instill in my children are compassion and love towards creatures and the earth in general. We’re all ethical vegetarians, so in a simple way they understand the dynamic there and why we make the choices we make. One of the most important things to me is that my children feel a connection to the earth and the animals that inhabit the same space that we do. I don’t want them to be afraid of animals so I’m go out of my way to teach them about the creatures and how they should interact with them. It’s quite amazing to see the babies not afraid of spiders or bees. We have a beehive in our yard and they have zero concern.jesseburke7I understand you have two younger girls who are too young to join you on these adventures. Are they eager to join in? Do you worry about how the dynamic will change between you and Clover when they are old enough to tag a long? I imagine it’s been a great bonding experience for you and Clover. Maybe you can touch on the bond between you and Clover, too.
I think Poppy, my four-year-old, is very eager to join in because she understands what’s going on. I actually took her on our first 3 person shooting adventure last fall. It didn’t go all that well. I think she is still too small to really endure the hiking in the woods. She got tired really fast. With that said, I’m really excited about the next phase of this project. Including the two little kids into the mix is something that Clover and I are waiting for. Clover often says she can’t wait to teach her sisters all the amazing things that nature has to show them. The bond that Clover and I have is undoubtedly partially due to our experiences together on the road. In fact the introduction to my book is a letter to Clover from me chronicling how I feel about our experience on the road. And the conclusion to the book is a letter from Clover to me. The letters are my favorite part of the book. Even more so than the photographs.jesseburke8How does your wife feel about these adventures? Does she ever want to tag along? How do you think these trips would change if they involved the whole family?
My wife loves that I take the girls out on the shooting adventures to document the process. She doesn’t feel left out because we spend a lot of family time out in the wild as well. But she knows when I take the girls on a road trip to shoot for the series that it’s work and not all fun. She respects the difference and can totally appreciate it. I feel so lucky to have a partner that encourages and supports my artistic practice.
My motherly instinct is very attracted to the Free Range kids movement, which – in short – is about trusting our children to do more for themselves and allowing them independence. I feel like what you are doing is very in-line with this kind of parenting. Would you agree?
I totally agree. I think we need to let our children be as independent as possible and learn things from experience. I’m a big fan of nature play and free range parenting.
You’re raising three girls. What are the more important lessons you want them to take away from life?
To be kind, patient and understanding, to love the earth and each other, and to be confident and strong.jesseburke10
How would Clover describe these trips? Are there ever times she doesn’t want to go or is it something she always looks forward to?
I believe Clover would describe the trips very much like I do. She looks forward to them as a getaway, a vacation of sorts. She looks forward to the opportunity to spend time alone with dad and go out into the world and explore these amazing locations. The kid has seen more amazing things and done more amazing things than I have and she’s only 9.
Curious how long a typical trip is and how you work around school. Are you okay with her missing a few days of school for the sake of learning outdoors? 
Usually the road trips last between three and five days. We try to take them when there’s a break from school, but I am okay with her missing a day or two for the sake of this. I think she learns a lot out in the woods in a different way than she could ever learn in school. Different things but equally important.jesseburke2
I love the images of Clover in the hotel rooms. Can you touch on what those images represent and why they’re included in the series?
The sleeping images are meant to represent a resting point, both literally and metaphorically, in the bigger adventures. They serve the more precious end of the scale. She is tired and vulnerable and I see that working with the wild child you see in the other images. They are meant to also serve as moments of pause in the book, moments of reflection on what we encounter that day and what may come tomorrow. They are spread out across the book like a backbone. In fact the first and last picture you see are her asleep. This is meant to give the viewer the experience that possibly the entire book is a dream. The sleeping images came into play one night when we were back at our hotel and I decided to take some pictures of Clover sleeping because the stripes on her shirt looked amazing against the stripes of the sheets. When I woke up in the morning she said she had been dreaming of salamanders, that we were out in the woods and she was catching them. Later on that day our plans got sidetracked and we ended up parking in some random spot and hiking into the middle of nowhere. We stumbled upon this stream where Clover found tons of salamanders and ended up catching them and playing. The dream acted as a premonition in some way to the day that was about to come. I took that as a special sign to continue to photograph her sleeping. In fact, I photograph her sleeping every night now when we’re in the hotels. I started to take pictures of the two girls sleeping together on the two most recent trips.
Where has this project taken you?
We spend a lot of time in New England, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts. We spent some time in North Carolina, Virginia, lots of time in the northwest corner, the Olympic national Park in Washington state. We’ve also been out to the desert of Arizona and the coast of Eastern Canada.
I notice the bloody nose and the broken arm. Do share.
There are images scattered throughout the project and book. They are meant to act as gut punches. Images that make you feel an immediate emotional reaction to the physicality of being young and fragile. These images often come in the form of injury. Clover had eye surgery when she was three, a broken wrist at summer camp when she was six, and a basic bloody nose. These images are meant to allow the viewer to feel the vulnerable and precious side.jesseburke6
 Tell us about all the dead animals and why you feel drawn to capture them. 
I think the animals in Wild & Precious act as supporting characters in the play. We often desire to be connected to the creatures we encounter but it’s impossible because of their fear of humans. So oftentimes the only way we get to touch them and be physical with them is when they’re dead. My children have overcome the fear of dead animals. It’s not strange to touch a dead animal but rather a way of experiencing a deeper connection with the animal world. On a side note, death is so closely related to sleeping that the animals also appear to be sleeping in the pictures, which mimics the sleeping of Clover. There’s also a notion of masking throughout the series where faces are secured, both animal and human.
The feel of your photos remind me some of Sally Mann, who is one of my favorite photographers. Can you discuss some photographers that have influenced you over the years?
Sally Mann and Wynn Bullock have served as endless inspiration for me. The way that they capture portraiture and it’s relationship to the landscape is absent particularly when Bullock’s images of his daughters at the beach and in the woods.jesseburke4
 What do you think is the most important lesson Clover has learned since you started this project? 
 I think the most important lesson she could have learned from any of our adventures is to be courageous and confident. She does things and acts in ways that often make me feel very proud to have helped her acquire such secure grasp on who she is and what she’s capable of.
How about an important lesson you, yourself, have learned?
One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in my life came on these roads trips. Clover taught me to let go of being in control and to collaborate with her. To have confidence in her abilities and to see her as a partner and to not be such a dictator. I have a tendency to be a bit of an overlord when it comes to producing my photographs. She showed me that the best opportunities come from working together and experiencing the moment not as a dictator with the subject but as a teacher and a student where the relationship is reciprocal. I’m stubborn, it took me many frustrating experiences to get to the point where I am today. But I thank her for that, because in the end it’s what makes the images more unique and special.
Your project has been released as a book, which is awesome. Can you tell us a bit about what that journey has been like? When was the book released and where can we find it? 
Yes, the book was released earlier this month to coincide with a solo show at my gallery in New York, ClampArt. The book is published by Daylight Books. It’s been an amazing partnership and experience to bring this book and project to life. Creating the book, editing the pictures, talking about the ideas with essayists, have all brought the project full circle and into much more clarity in my mind. Sequencing the images in the book has also helped me establish relationships between pictures that I never thought possible.
The Wild & Precious exhibition is currently being showcased at ClampArt located at 531 W 25th Street, Ground Floor, New York, New York. Locals are more than welcomed to visit the gallery. You can purchase the book on my website at Wild & Precious. Also for purchase are items such as hats, stickers, shirts, and other things which have been created for purchase and are Wild & Precious affiliated.  This part of the project is really fun for us.

 Will the book contain any images from your Instagram feed? Would love to hear your general thoughts in regards to mobile documentation.

Ah yes, one of my favorite parts of the project has been shooting with my phone in addition to my camera. I approach photography in a very different way with my phone so incorporating the images from my Instagram feed and iPhone into the project was an amazing opportunity to bring two seemingly disparate worlds together. The work is all created at the same time from the same mindset so it only made sense that they were family and live together in the book and exhibition. I’m really excited about this because I feel that the Instagram images are much looser and more fun in some ways to my formally composed camera pictures. I can’t wait for people to see this book and experience the adventures we go on and hopefully be inspired to take their own adventures. It’s a wild and amazing world out there and we as parents need to make sure our children are aware of just how magical it is.

Speaking of mobile documentation, Jesse is moderating the Childhood Unplugged Instagram feed this week. Be sure to hop on over, say hello, and check out his features. Thanks for your time, Jesse, and best of luck with Wild & Precious

Childhood Unplugged Features Dara Scully

Dara Scully 3A while back I featured an image of Dara Scully’s on our instagram feed and immediately it drew a lot of attention; a few were disgusted by her work while others defended it. I’ve loved her work ever since I first laid eyes on it and I embrace the fact that some of the images make the viewer a bit uncomfortable. With all due respect to the artist, I wanted to give Dara an opportunity to discuss her vision and her philosophy of childhood. I think her thoughts on it all are very beautiful and raw.

I hope you all will show Dara the love and respect she deserves.

Tell us a little about who you are, where you’re from, and how you enjoy spending your time.

I’m a photographer and writer from Spain, or maybe I’m just a tree. A forest creature, a tiny animal. When I’m sad, I run naked through the fields. They’re my home, my safe place. I adore foggy days, winter and Chopin. I’d love to be a ballerina or a bird. I only drink tea with milk, and if you want to give me a book, you could try with Nabokov.

You’re not just a photographer; you’re also an illustrator and writer. Can you touch on what all three of these roles mean to you and how they’re interrelated?

I use to draw, but I’m not an illustrator. I love it, because I studied Fine Arts at university and it’s close to me, but my heart belongs to photography and writing.

I started to write when I was 13. It was my life for a long time. Then, I discovered photography. I could tell stories with pictures, and, most of the time, I didn’t need anything else. But I was a writer. Inside, in my heart, I was a writer, and finally it came out again. Now, I’m going to publish my first novel, and my world is balanced again.
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I love your ‘Sleeping Beasts’ series. As the mother to two boys, I really understand both the cruelty and tenderness that define childhood. Can you talk about what prompted this series and how your subjects feel about posing with these deceased animals?

I’m obsessed with childhood. I don’t know why, because my own childhood wasn’t special or magical, and I don’t want to be a mother, but the point is: I’m obsessed. Maybe it’s because everything is so pure in childhood, so raw. They don’t understand hypocrisy or cynicism, they don’t act with duplicity. Cruelty, tenderness, evil, kindness… they feel all those feelings and show us just as they are.

About the deceased animals, the children feel a bit of curiosity, and sometimes sadness. I feel sadness too –I find all the animals in the woods, dead- and we usually talk about them and then we bury their bodies and put them into the ground again.

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Your work seems to receive scrutiny from time to time, what do you say to those that challenge your artistic vision?

I only ask for respect. Childhood and death are kind of taboo, I can understand the reticence. But my work is honest, and it’s full of dedication and delicacy. Maybe you don’t like it, I accept that, but please, respect me, because I’m not doing anything cruel or immoral.

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Tell me about the subjects in your images. Are they your children? How do they feel about being directed in the way that they are?

They aren’t my children. In fact, I didn’t know them three years ago. They live in my village and when I saw the boy for the first time, I thought: I need to capture him with my camera. And it just happened.

They’re extraordinary models, really sensitive and intelligent. They always understand my requests, all my indications. Sometimes, they give me more than I ask. I’m very lucky.
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I love the idea of including children in art. People oftentimes only think of ‘unplugging’ as being associated with play, but it can also be associated with art. Wouldn’t you agree? Please elaborate.

Of course, I agree. As I said, there’s a taboo about children; we have to protect them from everything, and sometimes we’re too closed-minded. A few years ago, I exhibited Sleeping Beasts, and some people said: this artist doesn’t respect childhood. Why? Art is knowledge. Art makes us better people. My models have learned about death and respect with my pictures. Sometimes, they want to take their own pictures. It isn’t a job or an obligation for them, they really enjoy it. They want to know, they ask me questions.  Is this so bad? Really?
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It’s a struggle for many schools in the United States to maintain art as part of the school curriculum. How is art introduced to children in your country? Is it taught in schools? How have you taught your own children to value art and support your own work?

In my country, art is something useless. You have to be a doctor, an economist, a lawyer. When I was in high school, the art students were “lazy and stupid”. Smart people studied sciences in high school. It was a kind of rule. It sounds so sad to me right now…

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What projects are you currently working on and would you mind sharing a little bit about them?

Now, I’m working in a new series called “A child is playing”. It’s something raw and disturbing, but different to Sleeping Beasts. Sleeping Beasts is full of poetry and “animal sense”, they’re like beasts in the forest. “A child is playing” is like a tale or a nightmare. These children have grown, they understand their own humanity. And they put this new knowledge into their games. And it’s scary.

You can see the first pictures by clicking here.

You can find Dara Scully on instagram by clicking here.