Good Neighbors

Front Porch Project Captures Families At An Historic Moment In Time

Tag along on a shoot, and see some of the wacky ways people are staging family photos - on their porches - to best remember the pandemic.

Someday soon the coronavirus pandemic will be history. Beyond our personal stories, how will we remember what it was like to be quarantined for week upon week, working from home, going to school on line and searching desperately for toilet paper? Through photographs of course!

That's the motivation behind The Front Porch Project, an idea that's sweeping the country, giving stressed-out families something to smile about. The "project" is pretty simple. A local photographer stops by your house and uses a zoom lens to photograph your family on your front porch, which is great for social distancing.

My neighbors, the Sefsciks, had their Front Porch Project portrait taken on Easter Sunday.

No one's quite sure where the idea started. But we do know that photographers in just about every city and town are doing it. They include photographer Jeff Bennett in Ross Township, north of Pittsburgh, PA. He let me tag along as he took pictures of my neighbors, and I found out why this simple act of kindness meant so much to him -- and to them (you've gotta watch just to see his corona-costume surprise!):

Like my neighbors, many families are opting for a true family portrait, a little piece of normalcy in a crazy time. The Vaughan family in Hudson, OH, had their pictures taken by Lauren Wood. Like most professional photographers, she can't take traditional paid jobs right now because of social distancing.

Erik and Stacey Vaughan with Tommy, Will, Lucy and Millie the dog.Lauren Wood Photos/Facebook

Wood told the Akron Beacon Journal she loves the porch project because everyone's so at ease. "It is rare in the busyness of our daily lives that you can just capture a family just the way they are," she said.

Brittany Thompson is taking porch pictures in and around Detroit, MI. She also loves how relaxed people are -- happy to be outside enjoying each other and having fun. "A lot of people came out in their pajamas, they're just chilling in their socks, and I'm like 'it doesn't matter, that's what you guys are doing right now'," she told Fox2Detroit.

Socks and slippers are A-OK in a porch portrait.Brittany Thompson

A lot of families are getting creative and dressing to represent how they're living life during quarantine. Dads in Zoom-worthy clothing from the waist up and shorts or PJs from the waist down is a popular look.

If dad wears shorts for his at-home Zoom call, why not in the family's porch portrait?Kinda Arzon Photography

San Diego, CA photographer Kinda Arzon has found it's also not unusual to see rolls of toilet paper in a front porch scene, or people wearing gloves and masks, or kids with laptops for home school.

Gloves, masks and kids on laptops will remind everyone years from now what quarantine was like in their house.Kinda Arzon Photography

I couldn't find any photographers who were charging for their services. Some, like Sara (Schultz) Petersen, in LaCrosse WI suggested their clients to make a donation to charity, in her case, to her non-profit p.s. I love you, which raises money for cancer patients and people who've experienced miscarriages.

Sara Petersen/Facebook

The photographers were happy to participate even though they're not making any money. For them that's not the point. "It's really fun to pull up into these neighborhoods and see people be so excited for me to be there and do what I love," Petersen told WXOW. Thompson said "The main reason I want to do it is this is a huge time in history. We've never seen this. To document it is so important."

How can you start something good?

For the untold families whose lives have been brightened by this group of photographers, we say thank you for sharing your talents.

If you're interested in finding a Front Porch Project photographer near you, we suggest plugging the phrase and the name of your community into your favorite search engine and see what pops up. I found Jeffrey Bennett offering up his services on Nextdoor.

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