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Photographer Erik Umphery Turns His Lens on Black Love in Quarantine (SLIDESHOW)
by Dontaira Terrell
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May 13, 2020

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Photographer Erik Umphery Turns His Lens on Black Love in Quarantine (SLIDESHOW)

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” and Atlanta-based photographer Erik Umphery proves this ancient adage to be true. In the era of social distancing, he captured the essence of nine families in quarantine that showcases the “new normal” we are all experiencing in these trying times. BlackLove.com chatted with each of these couples as they peeled back layers to reveal personal fears and anxieties, financial impact, vulnerabilities, and what they appreciate most during this lockdown.

From family workouts to homeschooling and at-home date nights, pivoting in a crisis to make new memories and navigating day-to-day is not an easy feat, especially with the worldwide level of uncertainty. However, this time in quarantine has proven to be a blessing in disguise as the common theme in every household involved a sense of clarity and gratitude and a heightened perspective on matters of the heart, individual growth, and family values. Together with Erik Umphery check out our Black Love in Quarantine photo series!

Name: Brown Family 
Reflections by: Tiffany Brown
Married four years with a five-year-old son

“If I had to describe this time in quarantine in three words, it would be to love your family. I think this whole quarantine has shown people the preciousness, and the quality time you can’t get back as your kids are growing or if something happens to your family member. My husband just lost his brother last Thursday due to COVID-19. Once the person goes into the hospital, you can’t visit them, and then they’re just gone. It makes you really put things into perspective. A lot of the day-to-day stuff we thought was important is null and void if you don’t have the people that you love around you.” ⁠⠀

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Name: Mickel Family
Reflections by: Shayna Mickel
Married three years with a two-year-old son 

“To be honest, the fear is the unknown, especially in terms of the economy. My husband, Kevin, works in the airline industry, and I work in the food industry – the first industries majorly impacted. Kevin has been furloughed and my income has been cut about 10 to 15%. So moving forward, how are we going to have to pivot to weather the continued impacts?⁠⠀

After we had a chance to reflect, we realized, we never get this much uninterrupted time just to spend with each other. One thing we said we were going to do is figure out how to be more present because this is the time we can’t get back. ⁠⠀

It’s been a lot of talking and being completely transparent with each other. My husband, he’s a man of very little words. But being quarantined has made us use communication as therapy to discuss topics we’ve avoided in the past. So, how do we talk about budgeting? How do we talk about strengthening our marriage? Or is this the time to become closer from a spiritual aspect? When you have a two-year-old, you don’t really have time to spend with each other and talk about the things that we should be discussing.”⁠⠀

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Name: Williams Family 
Reflections by: Lynette Williams
Married four years with two daughters ages one and two years old 

“One thing my husband and I have tried to maintain despite the circumstances is a sense of emotional intimacy. Ever since we started dating, we’ve had a date day, and it’s since evolved. For the past six or seven years, we’ve always had Mondays as our designated day. Through two pregnancies, both kids and even a pandemic, that hasn’t changed. We generally start Mondays with a bunch of activities for the kids and family projects, so it is our family time. Later on, we put the kids to bed 30 minutes early, and my husband and I will have a late dinner and dessert with just the two of us. ⁠⠀

We’ll also watch movies or find recipes to cook our dinner with each other. Sometimes we’ll have morning workouts together too! I like to work out at four o’clock in the morning because it’s the only time I have to myself and sometimes he’ll wake up to join me and then we’ll have breakfast with one another before the kids wake up. We are determined not to lose our emotional intimacy because it’s very easy to lose it, so we make it work the best way we can, especially now more than ever.” ⁠⠀

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Name: Marable Family 
Reflections by: Maurice Marable
Married nine years with a five-year-old daughter 

“On one level, it has been overwhelming, but also, at the end of the day, it’s been a blessing. I’m a director and a filmmaker, so I work a lot away from home. I love being a dad. I love being a family. It’s a value that I grew up on. The constant pull of being away from my household to work has always been the hardest part of my regular day-to-day. With the shutdown happening the blessing has been the amount of time I’ve been able to focus on my relationships. It’s allowed me to be a better partner to my wife. ⁠⠀⁠⠀

Having family dinner every night, reading bedtime stories, playing imagination with my daughter, and teaching her how to ride a bike without training wheels have been the highlights so far. Those moments are special, and I don’t want them to go away. When things go back to normal, I still have to make a living and provide for my family. But I think I’m going to take work-life balance a little more seriously than I have in the past because I’ve realized what’s really important.”⁠⠀

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Name: Cottrell Family 
Reflections by: Kevin Cottrell
Married five years with a three-year-old daughter

“It’s been a gift and a curse. The gift is having that quality time with family I wouldn’t have under any other normal circumstance. But it’s also kind of a curse because you just don’t know when it’ll end. Financially, we’re affected. My wife works for Delta and my world centers around the NBA returning to action. We’re just trying to stay focused on the gift more so than the curse.⁠⠀

Being that I work in the evenings and travel a lot, I’ve always worried how impactful I can really be to my three-year-old daughter. Even though she is young, these are the sponge years for kids. With me and my wife’s work schedules, we used to hand her off to each other instead of doing it together. It’s given us a lot more hands-on time with the basics, such as teaching my daughter sight words and how to write her name. Despite what’s going on, being able to reinforce her together as a unit has been the greatest gift.”⁠⠀

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Name: Daniel Family
Reflections by: Dionna Daniel
Married three years with a one-year-old daughter 

“I am grateful for the downtime because I tend to do the most, and our family schedule is pretty damn packed. Although I wasn’t looking forward to this semi-break, I’m thankful for it because, from an overall mental health, wellness, and spiritual standpoint, I really needed to slow down a bit. I try to continue my workout regimen, at least four days a week, to manage my mental capacity because both my husband and I are still working, and we have to care for our one-year-old. The workouts definitely get those endorphins going! ⁠⠀

We also decided on a schedule to manage our daughter. I have the morning shift, and he has the back half of the afternoon into dinner shifts. This allows us to work and focus on that for a period of time while creating a balance, so one parent won’t end up getting burnt out because they’re the only one doing all of the work in taking care of our baby girl. I’m also trying to keep in touch with my girlfriends, and some of my coworker friends by calling people on the phone or having a Zoom or Facetime meeting. I’ve had a couple of those with family and friends, and I’ve done a couple of Zoom game trivia nights. That was pretty fun! Trying to stay connected with people virtually where I can helps me also manage my mental capacity and navigate these difficult times.”⁠⠀

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Name: Manning Family
Reflections by: Brandy Manning
Married 14 years with three children ages five, eight and 11 years-old

⁠⁠“We’re finding creative concepts and ways to bond collectively as a family. We’ll go around the block, we’ll hit neighborhood walks, whether it’s in the morning, right around the time we wake up or in the evenings when things slow down. We have this thing called the Manning Olympics daily at three o’clock. ⁠⠀

This consists of everything from running the stairs in our house, creating obstacle courses throughout the house or lifting bags of canned goods, and carrying them around, like a relay race, things to keep them active. I’m a basketball coach so finding physical activities isn’t hard for me. We get creative, and we make it work. Pretty much, our schedule is real structured. We have a fourth-grader, a second-grader, and a kindergartener. Aside from me and my wife’s regular jobs, we are also elementary school teachers now because of the school closures due to COVID-19. ⁠⠀

You have to take necessary precautions to prepare your family and kids for what’s going on around the world. As a family unit, we’re finding our center by having those transparent conversations. Although we have different ages, we try to paint a picture of everything and the importance of taking care of yourself and being mindful of what’s happening right now. The reality is, depending on the situation, there are no do-overs with this thing.”⁠

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Name: Hunter Family
Reflections by: Jilliann Hunter
Married 1 ½  years with two sons ages two months and one-years-old 

“I’ll be honest; we’re still trying to find our center. With most parents, we bond overlooking and enjoying our sons. I’m looking at them, mainly my oldest, because his little personality is really shining through. We can laugh, joke, and connect on that level, but as far as centering as a family, we’re still trying to find our footing. This has become our new normal, but we know this new normal is going to change again, and we’re learning to figure that out. ⁠⁠⠀

It’s been a blessing in disguise to be able to have my husband here during the day and help out with my youngest son. With my firstborn, I had a little bit of postpartum anxiety. My husband is still working, so I’m primarily taking care of the kids during the day, but it’s been helpful not being by myself. I’m truly thankful for that. And I’m grateful to have my boys here every day. It’s tiring, but I know that I’ll be wishing for this time next year because when my oldest gets to a certain age, he won’t need to rely on me as much. ⁠⠀⁠⠀

Although it can be trying at times with two children under two during a pandemic, I can appreciate these moments, bonding as a family and growing emotionally with my husband.”⁠⠀

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Name: Carlos Family
Reflections by: Lakeitha Carlos
Married six years with a six-year-old daughter 

I’ve learned we can coexist while catering to each others’ specific needs and still be happy. I think we have all gotten to know each other much better, child included. I applaud all people who can parent and connect with their spouse at the same time. It is not easy, and I have not mastered it at all. 

However, during this time, what I’m really afraid of is becoming my child’s first-grade teacher in the fall because this is not my ministry! I am not built for this. So we’ve found creative ways to provide educational components with our daughter by giving her a schedule, which has been incredibly helpful. She experienced a little anxiety on a day where I hadn’t given her a schedule, and I noticed she was kind of all over the place. 

It’s like when babies are born. They say to put kids on a schedule because it’s good for them. You may think that it’s crazy to be so regimented, but kids need that supportive structure to grow. It’s the same thing now, so I have kept her on a schedule. I’ve also enlisted both sets of grandparents as teachers. My mom and dad are retired educators, and I put them back to work. They teach a class every day Monday through Friday for one hour on Zoom. My husband’s parents are teaching a class once a week as well. I told everyone it’s “All hands on deck!”

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