Local photographer travels across N. Idaho, Washington capturing scenes from quarantine

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — A Coeur d’Alene photographer spent months traveling the world and taking photos of strangers out and about. His most recent project has taken him across the northwest, capturing somewhat of the opposite.

Adam Schluter recently began documenting scenes from the COVID-19 pandemic. He traveled from north Idaho to western Washington capturing photographs that mostly show empty streets and quiet public spaces.

“Just wanted to go in and kind of see places that we’ll never see empty again for the rest of our lives, and photograph it to remember this moment in history,” he said.

When Schluter heard about the stay home order, he had the same reaction that many of us probably did.

“Oh, my god, what is going to happen? This is so weird,” he said.

It was tough on Schluter to stay home, mentally and physically. He was used to doing things, he was used to traveling all over the world to take photos.

“That was me getting the rug pulled out from under me, and it was making me feel claustrophobic. So, I was wondering what could I do to still create,” he told 4 News Now.

He used his own backyard, his hometown of Coeur d’Alene to take photos of what it looked like during this time. He then hit the road, driving down to Pullman and Moscow to capture college campuses.

“When you’re there taking the pictures, it feels very strange. My whole life in the last few years is walking up to strangers, talking to them, getting close to them and having spontaneous conversations with them,” he said.

When he went to places where there were people, he said some would avoid eye contact. Schluter thinks it’s because people wanted to avoid conversations, to keep distance.

It is a different feeling, especially in places where it’s normally crowded with people, where it’s now empty – like Pike Place Market

“When you go out in these cities you’re used to constant noise. You appreciate a little bit of movement, a little bit of conversation and even just hearing the voice. [It’s] something we’ve always taken granted of before,” Schluter said.

Some photos do show people, but they show social distancing and masked faces.

“Going into stores, everyone’s wearing masks. It’s almost like the mask is the divider in between,” he said.

While he photographed some places that looked empty and felt “stagnant and void of life,” he came across some scenes that made him smile and laugh.

In Joyce, Washington, Schluter said he drove by a sign on a fire department’s lawn that said “Out of T.P.? Not a 911 emergency” and turned back around to photograph it.

“The true testament of the important things in these times,” he said about the sign, laughing.

During this adventure, there were moments where he did feel isolated, but there were also scenes that filled him with hope – like a sign in Coeur d’Alene that said “We will be back. Stronger than ever. All of Us.”

“When you go out during these times and you feel isolated, there’s a reemergence of the understanding of the importance of human connection, and you really see lots of people helping, lots of people reaching out and whatever capacities they’re able,” he said.

In these times of self quarantine, he asks that we still all remain connected by talking to loved ones and to keep doing things that inspire us. Like for him – taking more pictures.

As Schluter operates his own small business, he also wants to help others. Schluter has a book that shows his life on pages, traveling to almost 20 different countries, photographing and talking to 1,000 people. Half the proceeds he gets from his book “The World I See” this month will go towards small businesses in Coeur d’Alene. For more on the book, click here.

To see more photos from the “Quarantine Diaries” project or other projects, visit Schluter’s website here.