Philip Edward Laubner
Photographer and Musician
"While in the process of creating, I’ve forgotten myself enough to make sense of and process my feelings and experience."
Describe yourself as a maker/artist/creative
I’m a photographer and musician living in Baltimore.
What are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been writing music. I grew up playing music and during COVID, it’s been like therapy for my soul.
Has your work shifted in response to the pandemic? How?
When the pandemic started, I lamented the fact that I wouldn’t be able to shoot the photo portraits I love. I mentioned it to my mentor Jack Radcliffe, and he said that my subjects were already right in front of me, that is, my wife and my two young children.
I make my living with photography, so I regularly consider photo projects. But prior to the pandemic, I hadn’t considered my family as “subjects." Of course, I had photographed them extensively, but the focus was only my love for them and the desire to capture that love.
My son is four and he’s been the main character. Before the pandemic hit, he had inherited a bunch of costumes and props from a slightly older friend who had outgrown them. It’s a magical age of creativity and he regularly switch characters, makes up stories and has imaginary friends. This leads to photos.
My wife is a stylist and a makeup artist, so she often paints his face and her own for fun, even before the pandemic. Dress-up has proved to be a welcome diversion in isolation.
As the pandemic progressed, in addition to documenting my family, I was also amazed to discover that a co-worker had unexpectedly moved into the house next door to ours. I had originally met her and her family while on assignment in Iraq in 2017, before they moved to Baltimore in 2019. They had to rent the place, as COVID-19 had blocked travel to her new assignment in the Philippines.
In time our children were able to have social distance play-dates outside. But back in March 2020, we were all paranoid. It was ironic, I had been in their house overseas, but now, living feet from each other, we kept the kids away from each other, communicated in text, talked across the yard, or waved through the glass of storm doors. I ended up shooting a series of photos of them through the glass to make sense of it.
This though-the-glass approach led to other similar photos that played with the idea of distance and separation.
In your opinion, what role does the creative process play in helping us confront our “new” reality?
For me, the creative process helps me let go, or, as musician Jeff Tweedy refers to it, to disappear.
While in the process of creating, I’ve forgotten myself enough to make sense of and process my feelings and experience. For me, this time away from my worries while creating is a much needed type of meditation or mindfulness, especially during the pandemic.
See more of Phil's work here.