Families Are Taking Front Porch Portraits During COVID Shutdowns

Some photographers are donating the money from these sessions to local charities.

In this time of social distancing, families across the country are finding new ways of connecting with family and friends as they practice social distancing from the comfort of their homes. In addition to hosting game nights over FaceTime and participating in virtual Easter egg hunts over the holiday weekend, people are also finding new ways to have family portraits taken (from six feet away, of course). Inspired by the #frontstepsproject which began on March 17 in Needham, Massachusetts, photographers across the country are taking photos of families gathered on their porches and front lawns.

Here’s how it works: Families sit out on their porches, front steps, or even behind a glass storm door while the photographer stands a safe distance away on the sidewalk and snaps a few photos. It's a sweet way to document your family’s time at home while supporting a local business or independent artist.

And instead of making a profit, some photographers are even donating the funds directly to local charities to help individuals affected by the new coronavirus. There are currently 11,000 photos on Instagram under #frontstepsproject, and almost 17,000 more tagged with #frontporchproject. We chatted with a few photographers and families about what the movement means to them and to inspire your own family portraits.

The Sandridge family from Charlottesville, Virginia signed up for a session with Tom Daly of Cville Porch Portraits, a team of five photographers working to raise money for the New City Emergency Relief Fund for Artists in Charlottesville. The group asked that in exchange for a short photo session, families donate what they can to the relief fund. “This project has been super rewarding for the five of us, it’s given us a chance to give back to an arts community that has really built us up, said John Robinson, one of the photographers. “On top of that, we are seeing how much the community loves seeing the work. Especially in Charlottesville, with all that we’ve been through, it seems folks were searching for something positive that showed our beautiful neighbors and showed our town’s resilience.”

man, woman, and three kids on a front porch
Courtesy of the Scherer family / Mackenzie Merrill

We're all about making the best of an uncertain situation, and that's exactly what the Scherer family of Woodbury, Minnesota did. When a neighbor posted about the #frontporchproject, Sara Scherer (who has been home with her family since March 9) jumped on the opportunity to document this stage with photographer Mackenzie Merrill. Scherer told us their three girls wanted to wear their Easter Sunday outfits for the shoot since they wouldn’t be wearing them for their traditional Easter events. Although this experience was different from any other family photos they've taken, she said these pictures will help them remember how much time they were able to spend together. “While it is challenging to keep everyone happy and sane and entertained, it has been amazing watching the kids play together and strengthen their bond,” she says. “We have a safe, healthy, and plentiful home, and we are grateful that is the case because we know for many, it is not.”

Over the last month, communities have rallied around their small businesses to get them through the hard times, and that's exactly what happened in Atlanta, Georgia last week. To document this unprecedented time, the Borland family turned to a local photographer. In a blog post about the session, the Borlands noted they appreciated the chance to document a special image in the midst of an incredibly difficult time.

Hannah Jimerson, photographer and owner of Rosethorn Studio, told us that the support from the community has been helping her small business survive the pandemic. “At a time like this people need to take care of each other, the sense of community is giving all of us hope right now,” she says. “It’s about the moment in time and I am honored to be able to give that gift while spreading hope to those struggling from this crisis.”

Hannah Jimerson

It’s about the moment in time and I am honored to be able to give that gift while spreading hope to those struggling from this crisis.

— Hannah Jimerson
a man, woman, and two kids on a front porch
Courtesy of the Sadler family / Jenny Schmidt Photography

Amy Sadler from Ankeny, Iowa, has been self-quarantining for four weeks while her husband, an essential employee, continues to work outside of the home. She told us they decided to coordinate the photo shoot because “although this time is scary, it is history, and should be documented,” she says. Since their children are young and probably won’t remember much about this time, the couple wanted to have something to look back on and show the girls later. Their photographer, Jenny Schmidt Photography, is also using a portion of the money for local charities. “I thought this idea was so neat because not only did we get a memorable family photo; we were also able to help raise money for our community,” Sadler says. “There are so many people in need, now more than ever.”

Last week Juliana Sabo of Juliana Sabo Photography posted that she was thankful to be able to yell her hellos across the Paulus family’s driveway in Mason City, Iowa, as she snapped their photo. “I hate that I don't get to run around with these kiddos as they catch frogs and get into the real moments, but it's for a real good reason,” she wrote on Instagram. She's currently offering free sessions to any of her past clients.

To have your own porch portraits taken, reach out to a local photographer you've worked with before, or search #frontporchproject to find a participating photographer in your area.

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