Why you should care
Because Olaf was onto something.
Cary Jobe is a Boulder, Colorado-based photographer.
Attention, parents: It’s nearing the end of April, which means if you haven’t signed your kids up for camp yet, you’re likely out of luck. Most camps — at least in urban areas — are already booked solid. All of ’em. Tennis camps. Dance camps. Soccer camps. Coding camps. Jewish camps. Chess camps. Cooking camps. Spanish camps. Kung fu camps. Good ol’ arts and crafts, canoeing, capture-the-flag camps. But before you freak out about what you’re going to do with your kids all summer, consider this: nothing.
For many kids these days, summer has become just an extension of the already overscheduled school year. Camp is a $15 billion industry. There are at least 12,000 camps in this country — and counting. Since 2002, the number of day camps has increased by almost 70 percent, according to the American Camp Association, and the number of overnight camps has increased by 21 percent. Roughly 11 million kids in the U.S. attend camp, and 83 percent of accredited camps reported that 2014 enrollment was the same as — or the highest— it’s been in the past five years. Camp is fun and all, but that 7 a.m. reveille and the piercing buzzer that shuttles kids from activity to activity make it anything but carefree. Which is to say, whatever happened to the long, lazy days of summer?
Photographer Cary Jobe brings us back to that lost sun-drenched time — to her version of childhood “camp,” in rural Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, a sprawling parcel of land along the Maury River purchased long ago by her great-great-grandfather. At the end of every school year, Jobe and her family would flee their real lives for their utopian compound of rustic, screened-in cabins. Summer meant running around barefoot and biking along dirt roads, playing board games and leaping over rocks up Goshen’s Pass, catching fireflies in jars and falling asleep to the croaks of tree frogs. Only to wake up to Gran’s seven-grain bread with butter and bacon — and blissfully do nothing but play all day, all over again. As Norman Rockwellian as it may seem, it sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?
Jobe’s work evokes that of Virginia-born Sally Mann, who also photographed around this area. The following images were shot over the past five years, during Jobe’s trips home to visit her parents. Even today, Internet and cell reception in rural Rockbridge Baths is sparse. For Jobe, “camp” remains a place where she still goes to disconnect from her plugged-in life. “It is always a shock at first,” she says, “and then I adjust and settle into the quiet.”