★ C A M P  I S A B O K O ★



COLLABERATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY/ STYLING/ MODELING:

KOEN KORSTANJE ⋅ YMY HUANG ⋅ SEAN MARNER ⋅ TIM MATISHEK ⋅ ISABELLA KREBS ⋅ JONNA GRIGELVICH ⋅ ISABELLA KOSTRZEWA



I grew up in rural Michigan, and I am still piecing the parts of my childhood together, trying to figure out what really happened. I would say that my childhood was deeply unhappy. Full of anxiety, and miscommunication, and not being seen or heard by my parents or my Catholic school I attended from kindergarten until 12th grade. Yet this isn't wholly true, because there was always a reprise, a place where I felt loved, seen. Where I could be whoever I wanted to be, be the funny kid, be the popular kid. Summer camp. That place is in my heart. What is summer camp? Iconic Americana, cult like, freedom from parents and from society, from ideas of who you were, this sacred space that lucky or unlucky kids experience either for a week, or like me for months on in their summer, and years on end.


I started going to different summer camps when I was just 5 or 6. First there was vacation bible schools, and Springhill, or as Doni likes to call it “Disneyland for Jesus” Then there was the local college’s (Central Michigan University) science and math camp, and there was Sacred Heart basketball camp. My home base though, the one where I felt I could finally be the type of kid I always wanted to be was Little Pine Island. It was a Salvation Army sleep away camp in Comstock, Michigan. it was actually mostly intended to be a camp for low income inner city kids, it cost me and my siblings 5$ a week to go there. My mother would sign us up for as many camps as we could fit in. I had my first love there, Landon, he was the son of the camp directors, he ran the place. Looking back on it, maybe I didn't actually love him, I just actually wanted to be him. You might think a bunch of kids, half of whose parents were in or had been to jail, could have been bad news, but there was beautiful comradery, and it allowed me, whose parents have only been to jail for short occasions to thrive, and become… dare I say it… the coolest kid at summer camp. And I knew it too.


My siblings were cool too, my sister would cartwheel off tables, my brother would make everyone laugh at his cuteness, but I believe that I was the breadwinner of cool. Maybe because the camp was so diverse, with the population being half black and half white, so, although yet again I was still the only Asian kid, I could seamlessly be friends with anyone I wanted. Laughing sweetly and cracking jokes when I would get asked “no offense, but art you asian?” “none taken,” I would respond proudly “yes I am!” Years passed, and my relationship with camp faded to the background, something I used to look forward to all year became a sweet memory of a perceived freedom. Presli and Landon, they are siblings and my closest friends growing up, also have a rich camp relationship. Our childhood is filled with exchanging camp stories in the library afterschool. Their dad is the medical director at a beautiful and elite all summer sleep away camp on the jaw droppingly beautiful Lake Michigan. Just 90 miles west of where we live in the  rural, cornfield center of the state.


This past summer there was a chance for me to work at their summer camp, Camp Miniwanca for just 2.5 weeks, something they would usually never allow if it wasn't the summer after covid and, they were incredibly short staffed. Landon is leading a group of 16 year olds on a kayaking trip down the Mississippi, and Presli is working as a wedding planner in Northern Michigan, but somehow me and my sister are working at their camp. I am a craft house director, and I somehow manage to work only 4 hours a day, and sneak away to watch the sunsets on the lake every evening. I am healing here, and I am loving it. And everyday that gets farther away from it, makes me love it more. The weird rituals and songs, the “campy” attire, equal parts silliness, and utilitarianism. Tie dye shirts meet cargo shorts, high wool socks meet strappy sandals or muddy boots. I collect 100 tarp cabin covers that are about to be thrown away, filling up the trunk of my little green 2000 Toyota Echo that we call “Old Greg”. We raw dog (eat without cooking) Smores in the leadership lounge, and drink from water bottles covered in sand. We wear little bolo tags with our names and pronouns on them, the kids are queer now, and I am happy. I only get in trouble once or twice for talking about drugs and sex too casually. I am 22, I am the only Asian, besides my sister, and yet again, I am the coolest kid at summer camp.

































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All Isaboko pieces are
made from waste materials,
zero waste patterns,
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