By Cristi McKee
TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Have you ever wondered what your co-workers look like on the other side of that Zoom call? The Workmans, Tallahassee-based commercial photographers, offered insight into those musings through their latest photography project, COVIDwear. Especially amid COVID-19 concerns that the last couple of months have posed, a “business on the top, quarantine on the bottom” approach has been taken when attending virtual meetings, and the creative duo wanted to highlight this.
“We started our quarantine on March 13, 2020, and a few weeks in, we started trying to figure out what we could do to keep ourselves busy and do something creative while we had a lot of extra time on our hands,” Chelsea Workman explained. “One day, our youngest was in the backyard wearing only a diaper and rainboots, and Alex kept thinking about all the people he has seen on social media posting photos of their faces, but then showing their PJ’s out of the Zoom frame. We thought, why not create a photography project that shows how we either actually “get ready” during quarantine? Ultimately, we wanted to make people smile because staying in your house for a really long time can take a significant toll on your mentally, physically and emotionally.”
At its heart, the COVIDwear project works to “poke fun at the strange times the world is living in and the adjustments everyone has had to make” through vibrant, fun portraits of Tallahassee locals. “We wanted to portray what’s probably happening out of the frame on a ZOOM call,” the duo explained. Participants, including the likes of Mike Martin, Jr. FSU baseball coach, Marsha Doll, modeling coach, and Royce Lovett, musician, had the opportunity to show off their business wear…and their favorite fuzzy slippers, most comfortable sweatpants, and best running shoes.
Operating out of their home studio, extra safety measures were taken to complete this project. “We were intentional about cleaning everything people would be near or would touch,” they noted. “We always had hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes that people could use. We had masks, we socially distanced. The most people we had in the room at one time was a family of 6, but it was usually 2 or 3 people at most during a photoshoot.”
The Workmans’ favorite part of their latest project? “We’ve had two favorite parts,” they admitted. “One, seeing people. It felt like it had been a lifetime since anyone other than immediate family had been around us at all, let alone in our home, so it was so nice to see friends, even one or two at a time, and meet so many incredible people from our community who participated.” They also enjoyed seeing the impact that the project had on the Tallahassee community in general. “Our goal was to put smiles on peoples faces during such a crazy time in life and for the first time probably ever, we’ve had no negative responses at all. We love telling stories and making people smile, so why not embrace the weird times and tell the stories of how we’re all getting through it?”
The Workmans launched the Never Forgotten Coast Campaign back in 2018 after Hurricane Michael caused widespread devastation in an effort to raise funds for businesses that were impacted by the storm, and are the creators of Aerial Tallahassee, a community photography project that explores Tallahassee “from the sky.” Their latest project, however, has proven to be the most fun, especially since it doubled as a surprise revealing of the newest addition to their family. “We got to create another little project within the COVIDwear project,” they said. “We found out we were expecting baby #3 back in February of this year, but because quarantine started a few weeks later, we didn’t get to see many people, so it almost became a game to see how long we could go before we told people. We thought it would be funny one day during the photoshoots to take an iPad Pro and just turn it around at the end of the shoot, revealing a photo of an ultrasound and we got to use those reaction photos in our project to tell the world about our baby girl.”
Their final COVIDwear photoshoot concluded just 2 weeks ago, but the duo hopes its impact will live on. “As with any project we do, especially something with a bigger community impact, we hope it will inspire people to create and tell stories,” they said. “We live an incredible community and there are incredible communities all around the world with stories to be told, in the good times and in the bad. Sometimes you just have to take a leap and start.”