Four Walls, Three Kids and Two Parents

Andrew Mangum is a photographer in Baltimore, Md., who spent eight months documenting his home life during the pandemic with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, Fox, 8, Madeline, 6, and Bryson, 4.

Finding the words to describe this time feels overwhelming, which is probably why I take photos. I’ve always navigated the world based on my emotions and instincts, putting pictures together from things I don’t understand.

We were about to celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday in March when we got news that schools, parks and many businesses were closing. The cake was baked, friends invited and party activities planned. But that all came to a halt. Instead, we were left to create our own magical time.

Dwelling on the negative feels unproductive. We can wallow in our grief and despair, worrying about how we’ll pay our bills or if we can afford to put food on the table. These are very serious and scary things to think about, and as an adult they feel scarier because they leave us feeling vulnerable.

My children can sense that something has changed, but they don’t fully understand what is happening. They just know it means spending more time at home with family — playing board games, exploring the neighborhood, watching movies together, helping prepare dinner. Instead of school, Mom is now the principal and Dad is the easygoing art teacher.

I became a father on April 21, 2012. That’s when my son, Fox, was born. Being a father has been wonderful. As in photography, you learn a certain sense of fluidity, which, in a way, prepared me for the current situation.

Now I get to spend more time with the people I love, watching them learn in real time and cope with not being able to see their friends.

My wife and I have let go a bit. There is still a routine, but there’s more room for adventure and excitement. We feel blessed for what we have. And, though we have suffered financially, we’re in good health and I know that my kids will come to cherish this time.

And if they don’t, well, I’ll have some pictures to remind them.

Documentary photography is an adventurous job. But the thing about adventure is that it doesn’t have to be grand or exotic. You can find adventure in the rain puddles outside your window, the foods on your plate or the flowers in your backyard.

And that’s the beauty of adventure. We have the ability to instigate and enjoy it.

Thankfully, my mind has not been cluttered with all of the negativity going on in the world. I’ve reached a plateau. A sort of numbness. It’s given me a certain mental freedom, allowing me to focus on creating. Everything the kids do, or everything that I see, feels monumental.

My kids keep me excited about life. They inspire me to be a better person, to be more honest and vulnerable. They teach me how to see things with new eyes. Maybe this is temporary or maybe it’s time for new growth — it’s hard to say. But living in the moment sure is enjoyable right now.