'A love letter from me to the world': Navy veteran turned photographer takes stunning portraits of neighbors, families and artists as they shelter-in-place in Sacramento

There are families headed by single mothers and fathers, those that encompass generations, longtime couples and solitary artists living in RVs, trailers, tiny pads and well-kept houses in Northern California.   
These black-and-white portraits show the reality of lockdown in and around the state's capital, Sacramento. For photographer Rachelle Steele that was the plan. A military veteran who served in the Navy for nine years, she had the brainstorm for the portrait series - Shelter in Place, A Moment in Time - while on her evening run.
'I'm always thinking photographically and looking for pictures in my mind,' she told DailyMail.com. 'The streets are pretty much deserted but the houses are pretty full.'
Her neighbors, a family across the street she has known since moving into the area four years ago, had never had a portrait done. This was something she could do for them.
'I knew in that moment how stunning it would be for them. The concept took off in my mind. They are everyone right now.'
The family, above on March 30, that sparked a new black-and-white portrait series - Shelter in Place, A Moment in Time - during Sacramento's lockdown due to the pandemic. Northern California native and photographer Rachelle Steele said she met her neighbors - Sandy, Michael, Mira and Quinn - while unloading her truck when she moved to the neighborhood four years ago. They immediately welcomed her and her family. 'This is the first shoot that I did,' she told DailyMail.com. 'This is their first family portrait. This really kicked off the project for me'
The family, above on March 30, that sparked a new black-and-white portrait series - Shelter in Place, A Moment in Time - during Sacramento's lockdown due to the pandemic. Northern California native and photographer Rachelle Steele said she met her neighbors - Sandy, Michael, Mira and Quinn - while unloading her truck when she moved to the neighborhood four years ago. They immediately welcomed her and her family. 'This is the first shoot that I did,' she told DailyMail.com. 'This is their first family portrait. This really kicked off the project for me'
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order that began on March 19. Steele said she had the brainstorm for the series while on her evening run later that month. 'I'm always thinking photographically and looking for pictures in my mind,' she told DailyMail.com. 'The streets are pretty much deserted but the houses are pretty full.' Above, Steele's close friend Jessica and her son Eric at their temporary place on April 5. Steele noted they were in the process of moving to a new home
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order that began on March 19. Steele said she had the brainstorm for the series while on her evening run later that month. 'I'm always thinking photographically and looking for pictures in my mind,' she told DailyMail.com. 'The streets are pretty much deserted but the houses are pretty full.' Above, Steele's close friend Jessica and her son Eric at their temporary place on April 5. Steele noted they were in the process of moving to a new home
As a fine art photographer who specializes in black-and-white portraiture, Steele knew her neighbors hadn't had a family portrait taken and that this was something she could do for them. 'I knew in that moment how stunning it would be for them. The concept took off in my mind. They are everyone right now.' Above, four generations of one family at their trailer on April 15. Steele said they live on open land in Cottonwood, California
As a fine art photographer who specializes in black-and-white portraiture, Steele knew her neighbors hadn't had a family portrait taken and that this was something she could do for them. 'I knew in that moment how stunning it would be for them. The concept took off in my mind. They are everyone right now.' Above, four generations of one family at their trailer on April 15. Steele said they live on open land in Cottonwood, California
Steele has photographed 25 households thus far and said it was important for there to be diversity in subjects and structures. Above, Chris, a recluse artist who is known for pinstriping and airbrushing hot rods, on April 15. 'This is way up in the mountains in Northern California,' Steele explained, adding she drove hours to get the remote location. 'The taped up window added to the narrative that he is shut off from the world. I felt the gesture of opening the door was extremely inviting for someone so private'
Steele has photographed 25 households thus far and said it was important for there to be diversity in subjects and structures. Above, Chris, a recluse artist who is known for pinstriping and airbrushing hot rods, on April 15. 'This is way up in the mountains in Northern California,' Steele explained, adding she drove hours to get the remote location. 'The taped up window added to the narrative that he is shut off from the world. I felt the gesture of opening the door was extremely inviting for someone so private'
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order that began on March 19. Steele started her series at the tail end of that month and has taken portraits of 25 households thus far.
'The project has been word of mouth,' she explained.
Steele reached out to friends, acquaintances and people she had worked with before, and news of the series spread. She then connected with families on social media. If they wanted their portrait taken, she emailed information about the project and a time was set by text.
'I arrive prior to sunset,' said Steele, who has been published in Vogue Italia and has had her own solo photo exhibitions. 'We're on speakerphone the whole time.'    
'The project has been word of mouth,' Steele, the photographer, explained. Steele reached out to friends, acquaintances, and people she had worked with before, word spread and she connected with families on social media. Above, Dakota, Steele and their son Bentley on April 13. 'They live in a little RV,' Steele explained, adding that they had moved a week before the shelter-in-place order. Steele has known Dakota, who has modeled for her, since she was a teen. 'Their love is so warm in this image'
'The project has been word of mouth,' Steele, the photographer, explained. Steele reached out to friends, acquaintances, and people she had worked with before, word spread and she connected with families on social media. Above, Dakota, Steele and their son Bentley on April 13. 'They live in a little RV,' Steele explained, adding that they had moved a week before the shelter-in-place order. Steele has known Dakota, who has modeled for her, since she was a teen. 'Their love is so warm in this image'
After they connected via social media or through mutual acquaintances, Steele then emailed information about the series and a time was set by text. 'I arrive prior to sunset,' said Steele, who has been published in Vogue Italia and has had her own solo photo exhibitions. 'We're on speakerphone the whole time.' Above, Samantha and her son Mason at their home west of Redding, California on April 11. Steele has worked with Samantha as both a model and a hairstylist on photo shoots. She noted the 'tiny house' is probably around 300 or 400 square feet
After they connected via social media or through mutual acquaintances, Steele then emailed information about the series and a time was set by text. 'I arrive prior to sunset,' said Steele, who has been published in Vogue Italia and has had her own solo photo exhibitions. 'We're on speakerphone the whole time.' Above, Samantha and her son Mason at their home west of Redding, California on April 11. Steele has worked with Samantha as both a model and a hairstylist on photo shoots. She noted the 'tiny house' is probably around 300 or 400 square feet
Steele then instructed her subjects where to position themselves, such as at a certain window, to change the home's lighting and to open or close curtains. 'One of the challenging things is walking up cold to a house I don't know,' Steele explained, adding she knew some of her subjects but others were strangers.
Creating an intimate setting immediately while social distancing is 'the X factor in the project – connecting emotionally in the moment.' It is also a race against losing the light because Steele took most of the portraits at sunset.
In addition to making sure the series featured different types of families, Steele wanted to make sure she included distinct structures – homes, trailers, RVs – as well. 'Their home is a really important narrative for me. I want to tell their whole story.'
After taking about 100 frames, Steele uploaded the images and said she could sense right away which one is the shot. But she emailed the families as many photos as they wanted. 'They're deeply deeply touched,' she said, adding some are so emotional to physically see themselves as a unit that they cry. Steele said that the portraits, which she called 'heirloom images,' strengthens the familial bond.
After Steele arrived at a home, she instructed her subjects on where to position themselves, such as at a certain window, to change the lighting, and to open or close curtains. 'One of the challenging things is walking up cold to a house I don't know,' Steele explained, adding she knew some of her subjects but others were strangers. Above, Sunny, Jeffrey, Carol, Violet, Ethan and Sarah on April 7. Steele said that she loves showing this multi-generational family at their kitchen table. 'It brings more of a big family atmosphere'
After Steele arrived at a home, she instructed her subjects on where to position themselves, such as at a certain window, to change the lighting, and to open or close curtains. 'One of the challenging things is walking up cold to a house I don't know,' Steele explained, adding she knew some of her subjects but others were strangers. Above, Sunny, Jeffrey, Carol, Violet, Ethan and Sarah on April 7. Steele said that she loves showing this multi-generational family at their kitchen table. 'It brings more of a big family atmosphere'
Creating an intimate setting immediately while social distancing is 'the X factor in the project ¿ connecting emotionally in the moment,' Steele told DailyMail.com. It is also a race against losing the light because she took most of the portraits at sunset. Above, Steven and his daughter Tanaea at their trailer on April 19. 'This is a single dad with his teenage daughter,' Steele said. 'You can see how beautiful ¿ they go together'
Creating an intimate setting immediately while social distancing is 'the X factor in the project – connecting emotionally in the moment,' Steele told DailyMail.com. It is also a race against losing the light because she took most of the portraits at sunset. Above, Steven and his daughter Tanaea at their trailer on April 19. 'This is a single dad with his teenage daughter,' Steele said. 'You can see how beautiful – they go together'
Above, Jeannie and her Chihuahuas. Steele noted that her neighbor Jeannie, a senior, is sheltering alone. 'They make their home their universe,' said Steele, who added that Jeannie's house is immaculate and the flowers and garden looked after. Steele pointed out many are experiencing loneliness and isolation during this lockdown
Above, Jeannie and her Chihuahuas. Steele noted that her neighbor Jeannie, a senior, is sheltering alone. 'They make their home their universe,' said Steele, who added that Jeannie's house is immaculate and the flowers and garden looked after. Steele pointed out many are experiencing loneliness and isolation during this lockdown
Steele has had a passion for photography since she was a little girl. Her first subject was her older sister and she took pictures of her in the nearby woods and lake while they were growing up in Northern California. 
In 1998, she joined the Navy because she was drawn to the educational opportunities and the adventures a military career could provide. As a sailor who was deployed many times, she traveled and saw the world.
Being on a ship for months at a time 'extremely prepared' her for the current lockdown. 'I see this as a small fraction of how confined you could be,' she said, adding that it is 'just a tiny little taste' compared to her military experience.
In these uncertain times in which people are scared and isolated, Steele said: 'You form an intense bond with those around you.'

Her years of military experience also gave her deeper insight as well as empathy for others.
Until 2007, Steele was in the Navy and she recalled that she took pictures but only for herself. During this period, she was asked to document something, which she couldn't divulge, that left her traumatized. 'It really affected me deeply.'
For five years, she stopped taking photos. In 2010, a friend gifted her a camera and encouraged her to begin shooting again. She decided later on that she wanted to see how far she could go in field. 'I felt like I have something to offer photographically.'
Steele earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Academy of Art University and is currently working on her masters at the same institution. A fine art photographer who specializes in black-and-white portraiture, Steele is also raising two teen daughters on her own, which makes her ongoing family portrait series all the more poignant for her.
'Everyone is going through this. It's a love letter from me to the world. I want people to feel loved right now and witnessed.'
'Everyone is going through this. It's a love letter from me to the world,' Steele said about her portrait series called Shelter in Place, A Moment in Time. 'I want people to feel loved right now and witnessed.' Above, Milena, an artist who is experiencing lockdown alone in her apartment, on April 9
'Everyone is going through this. It's a love letter from me to the world,' Steele said about her portrait series called Shelter in Place, A Moment in Time. 'I want people to feel loved right now and witnessed.' Above, Milena, an artist who is experiencing lockdown alone in her apartment, on April 9
Steele took about 100 images at each home. She said she could sense right away which one was the shot, nonetheless, she emailed people as many photos as they wanted. 'They're deeply deeply touched,' she said, adding some are so emotional to physically see themselves as a family unit that they cry. Steele said that the portraits, which she called 'heirloom images,' strengthens the familial bond. Above Chelsea Foxx, a drag queen and local celebrity in Sacramento, with her husband John on April 2. 'They have a beautiful love language. Their love just shines ¿ it really does'
Steele took about 100 images at each home. She said she could sense right away which one was the shot, nonetheless, she emailed people as many photos as they wanted. 'They're deeply deeply touched,' she said, adding some are so emotional to physically see themselves as a family unit that they cry. Steele said that the portraits, which she called 'heirloom images,' strengthens the familial bond. Above Chelsea Foxx, a drag queen and local celebrity in Sacramento, with her husband John on April 2. 'They have a beautiful love language. Their love just shines – it really does'
'A love letter from me to the world': Navy veteran turned photographer takes stunning portraits of neighbors, families and artists as they shelter-in-place in Sacramento 'A love letter from me to the world': Navy veteran turned photographer takes stunning portraits of neighbors, families and artists as they shelter-in-place in Sacramento Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 09:40 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.